Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Mother In Law is Gone But We Still Have the Chickens

I've been without a "modem" sence Saturday last week. Sence we live twenty miles out of town this has been very inconvienent. It means our phone service provider is not providing our internet because there equipment has failed. They're sending a new one to replace it.

In the meantime, I drive into McDonalds, get a coffee, and use the free WiFI here. Sweet.
Or, I can go to the library, and use their PC, but, that means all my stuff on the hard drive is inaccessible.

Not that I'm addicted to the internet. I can quit when ever I want.

My Partner has called our provider, and its never the same story. But, suppossedly, tonight we should have our modem, and have everything back, including the marvelous NetFlicks.
If you've never tried NetFlicks, get it a try. They offer one month free, trial basis. We're hooked. You get to watch movies via internet upload onto your wide screen t-v, pause when you want, never worry about how long you got it, surf for movies and add them to your queue.

Anyways, yesterday our power and phone went out. We don't get cell service either. Sorta insult to injury, and it reminded me of the old jewish story of the guy who lived with his wife in a tiny house.
It seemed unbearable to him because there just wasn't enough space, and so he and his wife would fight.
Finally, in desperation, he goes to the Rabbi, asking for help. The Rabbi counsels, "my son, do you have a mother in law?"
"yes," he replies "of course, who does not have one?"
"Invite her to move in, insist she comes to live with you" the Rabbi responds.
"But I have no room, not even for myself and dear wife!" he complains.
"Do as I say, and all will be well" the rabbi replies.

The poor man goes home, does as instructed, the mom-in-law comes, bags and all. It is horrific. He goes back, begging for permission to kick her out.
"No, my son," the Rabbi consoles," but do you have any chickens, or goats, or even a dog or two?"
"What? You must know I do, they are in our frount and back yard, every day" the man is bewildered, "What does that have to do with my problem?"
"Move them into the house, yes, yes, I know you have little room, but do as I say, and all will be well"
The man is determined to follow the wise Rabbi's advise. He is a man of god, no?
He does as instructed, but even God himself can not calm the storm. The animals are crapping on everything, the mother in law is constantly yelling, the wife is crying, and he would kill himself if such were permitted.
In desperation, the man returns to the Rabbi, and pours out his misery.
"Now, go home in peace, my son, and move your animals and mother in law out of the house. Come back when that is done", and the Rabbi leaves the room.

Joyfully, he does as instructed, and he and his wife celebrate the quiet evening with a fine meal. She is smiling, promising sweet things, and he is so elated it takes him two days to get back to the Rabbi.
"You are so wise, Rabbi, all is marvelous, thank you for your help!" he exclaims.

The moral? Being with out the internet is bad. Being without power and phone is much worse.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We Ponder Not Whether to Wander But Where

Just when You think you're doing something cool or remotely remarkable, along comes a story like Jason Lewis: Human Circumnavigation Around the World

I'm moved with awe and humility.
Some of us are adventurers by nature, curious to a fault. A daily dose of adrenalin preferrable to complacency.

I recently fired an assault rifle under close supervision. That was a trip!

Travel is a great adventure. Some feel with nuclear safety being questioned, and oil scarcity, our travel will become limited, and the globalization of commerce will cease. I don't know. Maybe.
They hypothesize that we'll be adventuring in our own neighborhoods. How big is a neighborhood?

Your neighborhood might depend on how far you can travel by human power: bikes, roller blades, rowing and paddling, walking.

We ponder, not whether to wander, but where.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cirro Jacket from Brooks-Range -Gear Review

The Brooks-Range Cirro Jacket is an ultra light 100 % nylon jacket that weighs a mere 10 5/8 ounce. When it arrived, I thought the box must be empty.

I have the small without a hood, and tested it today in 40 degrees with winds gusting to 20 mph. Absolutely cut the wind and kept me warm. The pockets, all 4 of them, are substantial, giving plenty of room for mittens, phone, sun glasses, and more.
The exterior chest pocket is the only one with a reversible zipper, and that's the one to use as a self stuffing pouch. Gently does it, of course. The zippers are ultralight as well, a 2.5 coil. When stuffed into this pocket, it makes a sweet pouch measuring approximately 10 inches long by 7 inches wide, a few inches thick.

There are two size pockets for hands, etc, and one interior chest pocket.

All the stitching is excellent. The fabric has the much sought after feel of pure silk, even though it's a .9 ounce ripstop nylon, made by Pertex. This special fabric, Pertex Quantum, coupled with the Primaloft insulation is featherweight, yet warm!

Ok, now, how did I personally feel wearing it?
Well, I'm 5 foot 2 inches, 118 pounds and this small jacket fit very nicely except the sleeves were a couple inches too long. The sizing charts are a little off, so, unless your chest is less than 42, waist less than 36, and not over 5 feet 8 inches, I'd recommend the next size up.
The jacket comes to mid hip on me.
My partner, Rainmaker tried the jacket on. According to the sizing chart, it should fit him, sleeve length and all. Not so, he will need a medium.

This jacket moves with you, never binding, or feeling heavy. I used it driving to town, shopping, walking in the woods, and at home. In all situations, the freedom of movement, with the sleeves tucked under because of the extra length, was great.

The jacket is made in China, and the care label reflects this with pictures. I'm getting : hand wash in cool water, no irons, no dryers, no heat.

Sounds good to me!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Do You Share the Love?

The first time we took the kids on a camping trip, we had to borrow a tent. My now ex-husband had never been camping. He was raised on a farm. Funny, so was my mom, and she'd never been camping either until in a maniac expression of love, us kids talked her into it.


Anyways, I grew up in girl scouts and put up with the weekly meetings and ten cent dues just for the twice yearly camping trips. How I inherited this love, I'll never know, but I was determined to pass it on to My Kids.

So, borrowed tent and totally frugal gear,( meaning normal household stuff) four youngsters, a reluctant husband and I headed to a nearby state park to camp. We chose a walk in site, which meant hauling all this crazy gear half a mile back into a secluded, wooded site: camp fire ring, picnic table and a generous flat spot for a huge tent neither of us had ever set up before. An outhouse built for the backcountry camp sites meant a short hike down an unlit path, so we build one and curtained it behind our site.

Now, I didn't have much experience family camping, but somehow we managed to put up the castle by nightfall, get a fire going and cook some real food in real pots, eating on real dishes. I said frugal, right?

It was early October in northern Illinois. The fall colors were gorgeous, there were trails to hike, and crazy outhouse adventures. The thing my kids remember, though, is that first night while I was washing the dishes, a cat came to the site and refused to leave. Seemed inappropriate, and we didn't want a stray around, who knows if it would bite, or what. So, after exhausting every idea, I threw the dish water at the cat. Problem was, some of the real silver ware was still in the wash basin. My kids thought it was hilarious, the oldest being just 9, as they watched me hunt and rescue the forks and spoons from the forest floor.

Well, many successful family camping trips were to follow this until now, while they raise their children to go camping, I feel some love has been imparted for the great outdoors.

I hope so. If our children love the woods, they will take care of them, not leave garbage, will strive to protect our national treasures, will participate in family camping rondevous.

Sitting in the woods this morning, the trees scraped each other creating strange noises. In the darkness of night, this could be frightening if you'd never heard it before. Flowing water over rocks can sound like someone walking. Sleeping in valleys, on mountain tops, or near cliff formations can cause echos and other "creepy" noises.

You get used to this stuff the more you get out there. How to share the love? Get out there, in daylight, and listen to the natural music of nature. Sit still until animals begin to move near by. Watch the sun set slowly. Not just on a bike path. Not just in the city park, but on a trail, in the forest.

We learned to bring finger foods, stuff that can be cooked on sticks (hot dogs, brats, pre cooked chicken thighs, apples), stuff that can be wrapped in foil and put in the coals, stuff that can be placed on a grill. We learned to use paper plates, and not stress over dirty clothes. As long as our hands got washed before meals, and we could sleep warm, and enjoy some good junk food, it was fun and all was well.

I've been asked how to make girls love backpacking. It should never feel like a chore. Girls are generally not as competitive, there should be love, and purpose.

I don't know, really. I always have loved the woods. My sisters don't.
Go figure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sleeping Bag Review-Making a Bag Liner

Yesterday I posted a complete review of my new Women's Casper 15 degree synthetic Sleeping Bag, from Eureka at
More links and photos are embedded there.

The bag lends itself to any weather because, as you can see in the above photo, I've laid it out to use as a quilt. The separating zipper prevents any stress on the lower portion. There is also a reinforcement triangle sewn in.

My trail testing took me through some marvelous Georgia forests, including creek inspections for future panning for gold.

Testing gear always involves checking sewing, evaluating options the designer added, and tactile impressions.

My first love came when I saw how well it fit me. This woman's bag also has extra fill in the feet and chest area.
I love the feel of the fabric, the colors are stealth and appealing. The rounded foot bed and chest pocket are great features.

I've decided to make a bag liner for this sleeping bag. I'll be taking this bag out west with me this summer, and a liner can be used inside or out side the bag to keep it cleaner. There will be nights under tarps, nights in high elevations spring into fall, and hot buggy nights.

I used a 1.1 ounce uncoated ripstop. Fold the 60 inch wide fabric in half, cut to the correct length. I made this one longer than the Casper Bag so it can go on the outside when I sleep under a tarp.

The finished product weighs 5.5 ounces and fits in a sandwhich baggie.

The fabric strips here, cut to 2 inch lengths, will serve as button loops. Cut the scrap created from cutting out the face opening into 3 inch wide strips. Fold into strips and sew down.

I used many of the same techniques I use for making stuff sacks: rolled seams, cornering the foot bed so it is three dimensional, incorporating a hanging loop.

I wanted it to be useful as a quilt, opening down the side, so incorporated button loops and buttons. You can just sew it all the way to the hood, if desired, and just slide it on.

Then, sewing the hood like the casing on a stuff sack, I inserted an elastic drawcord, and added a little pocket for that cord when excessive amounts were exposed, like when the hood is fully cinched up. This tiny pocket keeps excess cordage from getting tangled, or around my neck.

I love creating custom gear, and looking at gear because it shows how many possibilities there are for perfecting our collections.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On the Trail-Bonding vs. Bondage

I'll be gone a few days testing my new Women's Casper Sleeping Bag. Rated 15 degrees, I'm sure to sleep warm.
With a full moon, and day light savings, the campfire and river trail should be an exceptionally fine adventure.

In these economic times, bonding with nature is a very inexpensive way to "vacation". One doesn't need to travel far. Every state has areas worthy of exploration. I'm particularly fortunate to live in North East Georgia, surrounded by Wilderness and National Forest

A natural experience should be of bonding, not bondage. I do not try to control or conquer nature. Enjoy it for what it offers, and let it relax you. No fear, no threats. A welcoming of the sensory experience at all levels

The UPS guy told our "neighbor", who lives about a mile away, of some wild hogs and piglets he saw playing near the road. My life partner and I went to look for the signs, and sure enough, plenty of rooting around done near the road, veering off into the gorge. We followed the sign for awhile and saw their trending east, not near my garden. This is a relief

Not that we wouldn't put a stop to tearing up my hard work establishing a mountain garden. He is well prepared for defending the perimeter.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Roasting Pumkin Seeds, and More Good Stuff

Every once in awhile, I like to look around the web to see what other survival hobbiests and foodies are doing. This link:

talks about doing your own pumpkin seeds. You can also find links about head lamps on their gear page, and other thoughts for the adventurer.

I found this link via the

Happy surfing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Didn't I Think of That?

I love it! This guy "writes" a book entitled" What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex".

Its doing quite well, actually. Follow this link to read more:

I stumbled across the article while researching some real data on the current crisis in Japan

. The Daily Mail in the UK is a refreshingly British look at the world at large.

The current world status, including Middle East revolts and nuclear disaster prompt one to seek alternatives to our milk fed daily news.
I don't care a lick about celebrities personal lives or fashion.

Gear testing is in full swing, however, in spite of it all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Women's Casper Sleeping Bag-Review

I just received my Eureka Casper Sleeping Bag. Eureka Outdoor Gear
is the link for all of their products, tents, sleeping bags, etc.
is the link to view the specs on my bag.

Its rated for 15 degrees, is 100% polyester, and weighs 2 pounds 15 ounces.

Best of all, its sized for Women.
They have a long woman's bag, and the shorter one.This is exciting because we need a different fit than guys and why carry more length than you need?
I'll be testing this end of the week on a trip with my partner.

My initial impression of components is excellent. The compression stuff sack is tight, well made, but a little heavy at 3.7 ounces. I'll swap it out for a silnylon one I've made saving 3 ounces off the carry weight. The compression sack works for clothing, when traveling, a good item for the gear closet.

The lovely gray-pale green is a nice combination. The foot bed is circular, not flat, with two hanging loops for long term storage. Bags are best hung when not in use.
The zipper is very responsive, not the skimpy coil you sometimes find in ultralight gear. A three quarter, two way zipper in a great lining. It can be completely opened, with no stress on the bottom end. This is useful on warm nights enabling it to be used quilt fashion.
An inner chest pocket with Velcro closure for those little night time things like LED light, bandanna, or gloves is a great find as well.
I got in it, zipped it up and felt it could be used by a woman up to 5'6". I'm 5'2" and had plenty of room, yet not excessive.
The trail test will be posted next week. I'm seriously loving this bag so far.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The True Cost

Thoreau said the true cost of any given thing is how much of your life you'd be willing to give up for it.

In other words, if you don't spend it, you don't have to earn it, and that whole idea gives you free time.

This website:

has interactive features which enable you to see in dollar and cents what any given item will cost you, on sale, on credit, in cash, over the long haul.

I'm not against goodies. Eliminating impulse buys, or practicing some delayed gratification, means more time to play with the toys we already have.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Better Than This

We know we're better than this, but we can't prove it--Tony Gwynn

Nothing is perfect in every situation. The best you can do is good for the time being.

Someone asked me about ponchos. I've used them. At times, wonderful.

But if you get out there above tree line, say on the Colorado Trail, and it starts to storm, you gotta make a decision.

Keep low, with the pack which also has metal tent stakes and a cook set. Or ditch the pack, lay low and wait it out.

If the poncho is a pack cover, rain jacket, shelter combo, something's gotta give.

On my trail testing experience, the pack ended up with a black plastic bag to cover it, while I hunkered down under the poncho a few hundred feet away. Lighting does kill people, and it was striking the nearby trail.

Pre Plastic Bag find, I had to sit it out with the poncho protecting me and my pack. Thankfully, I do have a light pack, albeit, sometimes stuffed with a week's worth of food.

As a sewer and designer of trail gear, finding myself about 10,000 feet with a pack protected with a garbage bag was truly humbling.

I'm better than this!
Well, I can be.
That time I pushed the envelope.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What It Costs

I've always had this facination with self powered long distance travel.
Long trails, whether by foot or bike, hold a mystery. The journey, the friendships, life at a sustainable, slower pace.
Researching a cross continental bike trip, I came across this website. We minimalists can probably teach a few frugal tips.
However, it's good to be realistic as well.

The skill set necessary to do a trip includes repairing your own gear, able to change direction, be innovative and persistant in goal achievment.

This summer I'll be working and playing in the Grand Tetons.

Future adventures are unfolding.

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." ~Mark Twain

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hiker Stories at Hiker Hell

I stumbled upon

and just had to share this link with you all.

Its filled with stories of mishaps and troubles. The stuff we all can learn from.

I got started on this Prevention thing while reading about the Cost of Search and Rescue.

I wrote about that at today.

Sometimes people head out as ultra lighters before they are truly ready.
Go prepared, then skinny down your gear list as you become comfortable with trail life.
Never begin a trail without, and Never send these essentials home:
Rain gear, whether its a poncho, plastic bag or decent rain suit,
Shelter, even if its nothing but an 5 x 8 tarp,
Water Bottle, even if its simply soda bottles
Directions, by that I mean a map, compass, trail guide, or something that gives you a clue where you're headed.

The case can be made for cold food, going stoveless. You can make it without man made lighting by using the sun and moon when you're moving. You can get by without a cutting tool.
A sleeping bag or bed roll is extremely important and should probably be included in the above list, but a person can survive without one, a miserable survival, true.

Is this how you want to remember your trail, though?
Take what you need, and refine as you travel. That's my takeaway from these adventure stories.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Never Wear Underwear

I just finished washing my car in the rain. A frugal, energy efficient way to accomplish this task:
One gallon of warm water with mild detergent, one wash cloth and a rainy day. You wash while the rain rinses.

Ok, so the subject today is inspired by a quote found online at

One article is an interview with Bear Grylls.
Say what you will about the Man Vs. Wild series, there's good stuff to be found.

In the online article, Bear gives some great answers, among them the one on underwear:

What article of clothing should a man never wear?For me, it’s a distinct lack of underwear. I hate underwear. It feels stifling. My dad and I never wore underpants, and it drove my mum mad. Luckily, my wife is very forgiving.

I have to admit, in society, underwear can serve a purpose. Women and men look at it differently. For women, it can mean a fashion statement, they match, they incite, they cost much money.
For guys, it can mean less laundry over the long haul.

I never understood why hikers would wear them. Just one more layer to deal with getting dressed, when nature calls, or in trail towns.
I knew a thru hiker who actually used them. Found out when she had to pee in the Whites during a major storm. 'Nough said.

Anyways, girls, just be sure your shorts fit right and you're good. Guys, if you're wearing a kilt, watch how you sit when going commando. We know what you got. Don't want to see it all hanging, especially before supper.

Friday, March 4, 2011

May Your Miseries Abound

I found this quote by author and earth advocate, Edward Abbey.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--Edward Abbey
I have to admit, some of my greatest adventures and trail memories were filled with misery.
Those cold nights huddled in a 30 degree bag above 8,000 feet, wearing everything I owned, using ramen and shoes stuffed into a bag for a pillow.
Crossing a cold glacial stream while hordes of mosquitos munched away.

Busting through snow banks heading up to Whitney with ice in my smart wools, ice ax lessons notwithstanding, the abyss looking hungrily into my soul.
Those are memories.

Yeah, when things are going so well for mile after mile, a person tends to wonder if they've just zoned out or missed the turn.

Misery makes some serious memories. Never quit a trail in the rain. Sleep on that decision to abandon the dream. Eat a decent meal in town before you by the one way ticket home.

There's an old saying: the worst day on the trail beats the best day on the job.

Not sure how that works if you're unemployed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Define Minimalism

Wikipedia defines minimalism in the artistic world. To get into what we really do, you have to look at Simple Living. I used the above cookset on the AT for the last 558 miles, having pared down the cooking system to boil and rehydrate.
The soda can stove is still going strong, with over 5,000 trail miles on it.

As an ultralighter, minimalism becomes an art form: stripping the unnecessary until the item becomes the basic essence of itself

The beauty of minimalistic design comes in sustainability. Durable, yet easily repaired by the average person, with the clean simple lines, it functions perfectly without periphial gadgets which clutter up the pack or increase likelihood of failure.

Take the soda can stove. With no moving parts, able to accommodate a variety of fuels and nearly indestructible, still it only weighs 1/4 ounce.

You can make your own stove with just two aluminum cans. If you loose it, you can make one on the trail with just a simple pocket knife.
Boil tests are fun to watch using these little stoves.

The more holes, the faster it burns because of air intake. Fewer holes, and a good windscreen creates a slower, longer burn.
Use the extra large beer can to create a soda can stove for a larger group and more fuel capacity.

Choose plastic powdered drink containers or cookpot to create a nesting system. All this fits into a ditty bag with room for a spoon. I found if the spoon fits inside the pot, thats exactly where it will end up when you're cooking. A longer handled spoon is better.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Look At Minimalism

The water sack in this plastic bag weighs 6 grams and fits in the palm of your hand. It was designed for the ultralight backpacker who is on a trail with enough water for hiking needs so that only one or two quart bottles are carried during the day.

Once in camp, a bucket of water is needed for cooking, cleaning up, and plenty of hot coffee.
The beauty of this sack is that it can be carried in the pocket to the water source, leaving all the other containers at camp. It can be filled and carried like a bucket and hung from a branch or set on the ground.
Water from the sack can be filtered as needed.
This sack holds one gallon of water.

The minimalistic concept is based upon need, not want.
I've seen thru hikers carry four old style nalgene bottles, weighting upwards of 20 ounces just for water capacity. Others carry four soda bottles, weighing 4-5 ounces. Some do a mix of containers, like a platypus, camelback, nalgene, and soda bottle.

There is need for water and constant hydration. Without hydration and properly treated water, the body can not function. The type of containers we carry for a trail depends on water sources, availability, and hiking style.

A sack can be used to capture water trickling off a rock. A flexible plastic bowl or cup can be used too. A funnel can also be made with a broad leaf or straw.
These trail tricks come in handy over the course of a dry summer.