Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter is Coming... and fortunatley I have Coffee and Bannock

I've had to rethink my long-standing tradition of taking a day off on each and every Monday from the opening of squirrel season to the week before Christmas.  When I started writing here, about all I gave a crap about was hunting.  It was the only thing I knew to do outdoors.  Then I got lost, started learning skills because being lost scared the raisins out of me, and then there was a long transition.  Now we're someplace new.  The Wednesday after Veterans Day really drove it home for me. 

It was cold.  We went from highs in the 60's to a high of 36 with a 20 mph wind in three days.  I decided to go anyway because I hate working in cubes all the time and I had the day to burn.  I hiked around in my woods a while.  There are still a couple of places where I haven't spent a lot of time so I went to visit one of them.  I rigged up the 5.11 pack and headed out.  No rifle.  No shotgun.

When I am not rushed by cold or hunger or some silly objective I am trying to accomplish, I try to get into the woods before sun-up and just observe.  I never hunt on the land I use for just woods hang out time.  It sees a lot of traffic from me and probably smells like a tire fire to the wildlife given the number of times and amount of stuff I have set on fire there... (This day would be no exception.)  Anyhow, I counted at least 5 distinct squirrels.  One was close enough to hit with a rock.  I didn't have the camera ready or I'd have good pics of him.

Anyhow, as the light came up some more, I noticed what I took for a squirrel's nest up a large cedar of to my left.  (South east given the direction I was sitting.)  As I watched it a bit more, off and on, I noticed that it seemed to move around a bit.  With still more light, I noticed it had fur.  At this point, I moved quietly as possible to get a better look.  Imagine my thrill when I looked up and saw this.


The zoom on my old camera was cranked all the way out and in the low light, this was about all the image stabilization could manage.  Not my best picture but still, no doubt about who was looking back...  Anyhow, the point is I didn't feel slighted by not shooting any game.  It was just as good to simply be out in it.  That's the not-totally-new-but-finally-clicked for me moment of this exercise.

With the cold starting to wear me down a bit and some hunger creeping into my tummy, I figured it was a good time to press on and make some fire, and hot drinks, and some bannock. 

As the name here would imply, the cedar fire is almost obligatory...

One of the other things I have been enjoying lately is the subsiding of the gear crazy in my head.  Developing something like an eye for what I will probably like and what I probably won't has led me to stop wanting so much useless or duplicate stuff and the stuff I have really works well I think.  One great example of that showed up in the form of the canteen shop / pathfinder canteen kit I bought a while ago.  I've dropped, frozen, boiled, and carried this thing all I can for a few months now and it seems to be holding up very well.  The cup is especially useful with the vented lid.  It's my coffee making choice in most situations.


It's only real drawback is weight.  For the cost difference to do titanium, I can carry the extra pound... 

Something I have been working on fire a while, off and on, is making good campfire bread.  Bannock is just the best free-form expression of outdoor cooking I have found.  I love the idea of something simple and sweet that takes some skill to make but is still hard to screw up beyond being usable.  I'm sure at some point I'll graduate to harder stuff but for now, making this well is my goal.

A while back, I went looking for a better way to cook.  Like so many things I go looking for anymore, the military surplus market really offered a great option.  This is my second outing baking in this mess kit. 



This time I think I nailed it.  By far, the best I have ever made and once I applied the Maple Syrup, it was gone in a hurry.



Another hobby I have picked up a bit is carving spoons.  I don't think it's something I'll hike out just to do but I could see carving in general as something worthy of making a dedicated tool (read as worth of making a carving knife) and having it with me for nights by the fire and so on.  On this day though, I was just in the mood to try again.  It went OK though the wood was not as cooperative as my previous efforts..



In the end, I ran out of time before I could get it done.  I brought it home to work on some more.  It's just not the same without the wind and the smells and noises though...


Thanks for reading along.  It was a great day.  I hope I get to go again soon...

A glamor shot of my knife... just because I love these things. 



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Spoon I Made Along the Way

The thing about liking to make things is that I never seem to stop.  I don't like to stop.  Sometimes it's a problem.  Most of the time, it's just fun.  :)  Last week I was out for a long day and realized I had never carved a spoon that looked like anything or could have been used like a spoon...  so I found some good straight wood and went to it.  Finest therapy for modern world toxicity I have run into.  Time in the woods, performing a useful and totally inconsequential task...











Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let the Season ... Begin :)

So, having taken 220 days or so on hiatus to sort out life things and work things and health things, and having missed opening Monday because those I love were ill enough to stay in bed, I find that on the eve of my first hunt of this season I am excited.

It's going to be a simple affair tomorrow.  I am taking the newly revamped Clark 10/22 action down the hill to my number one spot.  I'll have a mag pouch I had made custom, PALS attached to my bottle carrier and a small pocket knife.  I just want to sit in the trees a long time and think about nothing while watching for stuff moving along the branches...  ;)

With any luck we'll get pictures and squirrels and pictures of squirrels.  I can't wait...  Less than 12 hours now...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some Cedar Cordage on a Perfect Day

I've been a on a study-kick for a while now.  I have been reading a bunch, trying to expand the underlying core of the things I like to do.  New perspectives are one of the best ways I know to test what you believe and do.

As a part of this, the idea of making cordage has really taken hold.  It's something I have been curious about for a long time and have finally decided to learn.  Like most skills, the initial part is all about learning the basics (which is where I am now) and the next part lasts a lifetime while the basics are adapted to serve the current situation.  Today I just wanted to see if I could make something that would hold some weight.

It was still raining when I got out of the car.  Just  little dribble though.  It was cool and very nice for July.  I hiked a bit and found a broken cedar tree.  Pealing a little bit of bark was easy however it was pretty small and limited length stuff.


It twisted up pretty well but it turns out the technique isn't just about twisting.  If it's running thick and thin...


There's probably a weak spot or two.  The parts that didn't break were still pretty strong.


So I packed up and did some more hiking.  Just a gorgeous day...  Then I happened upon this little guy.


It took a minute but I got a good pile of bark to work with for a second try.


I got about 18" twisted up before I ran out of fingers to twist it.  My hands are just not what they once were.  Still enough to get it this far thought...


I worked pretty hard to get keep the splices overlapped and to keep the tension and wrap constant.  This one sorted out pretty well and held, knotted. without breaking under the weight of klean kanteen bottle full of water.


New coolest thing I have ever made, right there.  I need to practice some more.  I need hand strength to make it longer and better.  Still pretty exciting to be able to make this much and have it hold.  Not sure how the wife will like it hanging in the house though...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Good Sharper Knife... with a handle

This really took a long time.  I used more sandpaper than I have in quite a while to make it happen too.  In the end though the results were really good and spot on what I was after. 


I get mixed feedback on my choice of color but nobody argues with the results.  Check this out...




I worked on that stick for a solid hour.  I was able to shave outer bark without disrupting the inner bark.  This in turn led me to shave inner bark and try my hand at twisting up cordage.  After a few tries I got this to come together...


That's a pure first for me.  I can't tell you the kind of satisfaction is produces to use a tool I made to accomplish something I have not done before.  So very worth it.

Just for giggles, I made a quick follow-up vid today to test the sharpness, post trip with no touching up, etc.  The blade is as it was when I left the woods.

I need to make more of my own stuff.  I know I need a sheath and I need to consider the options there.  I'd also like to carve out my utensils.  We'll see... I also want to make my own pack and bucksaw...  More work than any hobby should be I'd say.

More after a bit...

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Good Sharp Knife

One of the things I've found along the way is that I enjoy making things as much as I enjoy using things and if I have made what I am using, well..., that's just so much better.

I started making knives because I didn't want to spend $300 on a Russell Essler hunting blade.  At the time I had no idea about the bush knife concept.  I had no idea I would find myself watching Ray Mears or some of the other really good folks out there on the Internet when I felt down... That what I would find most enjoyable was not anything more than being out in the trees, remembering things long forgotten by my friends.

Once I found myself moving down this road towards knowing what my preferences were for what I used, I discovered I had some real gaps in basic maker skills and that I, like many others, shared a few common misconceptions.  Chief among these for me was the idea that knives were better if they were sharper.  In truth, it was the makers who were better at sharpening because they have sharpened so many.  So I learned to sharpen.  I stopped using belt sanders to make the edges on my blades.  I file in the bevel before heat treat and sand it by hand to sharpness afterwards.  This is a long and boring process compared to other ways to solve the problem.

My very basic distillation of what I want my knife to be...

In the end though, I am finally to the place where I like my work and sharp is no longer a concern.  In a world of $500 bush knives made of $8 worth of steel and $492 of people's mania for positional value I find the great prize in the skills I have picked up by avoiding the accepted way for handling the need for a good bush knife.

In the same vein, I acquired an old Singer sewing machine today and will pick it up a week or so down in Cinci.  You can bet that the days of me spending hundred of dollars on packs and stuff sacks are almost over.

Seriously, if you find things are starting to feel a bit hollow, get as close to the whole thing as you can.  Don't just stop at a master of where to order your next knife and the really smart post on some forum full of guys who talk a lot.  There's so much more to  it than sleeping overnight in the bugs with just some stuff that fits in your pockets or having the same pack as all of your buddies.  There's an individual voice in the making of tools and other gear, and it sings in harmony with the making of skills and learning things.  Find it.  Worth every minute spent...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jan 12 - Finally back to the Woods


I got out on Sunday for as long as I could stand it and it was satisfying.  I had the 980 with me.  It performed as always and made me happy, again, that I rescued it from the used rack in the awful chain store.  This time of year the shots seem to get longer though and it's now clear to me that late season requires a scope and maybe a rimfire magnum... scope for sure.  I can see them further off and once they get shot at, they see me too.

The wind was cold even with the sun.  There was ice in it.  I loved it just the same though.  You couldn't have pried me out early.  I covered about a mile or so in the big trees, came across a couple of greys playing on the ground, missed both shots, made coffee...


I had questioned the value of doing this but it turns out a hot brew and a quick snack can make a lot of cold bearable.  All that crap I carry did some good...  I am especially enjoying my new stove.  Takes down to the size of an index card and handles the alcohol burner like a champ.


Even with the sun out it was a gray day though I am not complaining.  I like to hunt in the winter because it is stark and cold and the weaker among us don't do it.  The quiet is tomb-like and the wind is hypnotic in the absence of chattery leaves; flight of birds becomes and event in this silence.  It is the polar opposite of the very alive and humming character of the wood I know in September.  I love them both which is handy.



And of course, I renew my love of evergreens this time of year.  They are the life in the silence, watching silently and growing on. 


I know that in January, when I have spent a day out shielding from the wind and waiting
for the shots of the day,  the car is more welcome and the heater to be a longer than I like lost friend.  The drive home through the early sundown is filled with anticipation of a hot shower and a little foggy on the details I was getting away from for a while and somewhere in my head I pray for hot soup.  After I am warm and clean and changed and the sun has gone down, I hold hands with my wife a while and head of to bed because the cold always drains me down a bit more.  When I close my eyes if I am lucky I dream of wind and trees and things that live there, among the birds and cedars and those dreams are always good.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Project #1 - The Marlin 60 Rebuild

A few years back I picked up a Model 60 on gunbroker.com in pretty bad shape.  I suspected, based on appearances, the rifle was just neglected and a little abused.  I got it for a song.  I disassembled and cleaned the parts (lost of compressed air and really strong parts cleaner) and put the whole mess in a box to keep track of it all.  Along the way I also, apparently, ordered sights and a new trigger and trigger guard assembly from these good folks

Anyhow, about the time I was spinning this up, my son came along and so things stayed in box under my bench until I dug them out last night.  Admittedly, at one point I was far more in to revamping stock rifles than buying new ones and that's saying something.  I distinctly remember thinking I never reworked on of these and a $50 puzzle would be a lot of fun especially if I could get it to work.  So here we are in 2014, thinking this might be fun to do. 

I need to take some inventory of the parts and make sure everything is there and then some planning around finishes and stock options and so on.  I'll keep it posted up as best I can.  I think I'll target August 1 for a complete date on this.  With odds way up I will duracoat the action, I would imagine I'll have it working and tested by April 1 to allow time for the finish to fully set, etc.  Stay tuned.... more to come.  :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Well, it's 2014...

It would be fair to say that sometime in late October I did that thing I do where I get my thoughts exactly backwards and, as a result, gave myself a first-class Rogerring.  :)  I made foolish professional decisions like someone who had nothing to lose in the last half of the hunting season and missed all of November and all of December's hunting time.  If only that was the end...  ultimately I wound up pretty well where I started and missed out on the bonus cycles and raises too.  I am not sure what I was thinkin...  Ah well.  While we live, we learn.  If we're too old to learn, I think we won't be around much longer.

So what do we do with the new year?  I have been thinking on this.  I think maybe there are some hard realities to face and some opportunities to exploit. 
  • First, no more discussion of fitness and weight loss.  It simple must happen.  I can't seem to plan it so I must just do it. 
  • I have a few firearms projects that have been in boxes of three or four years.  I think I will finish them this year.
  • My shooting is pretty rusty.  I need to make an effort to start having rifle range Wednesday this year.  I'm not sure how it will work out but hey, we gotta try.
  • Family time...  I need more of it.
  • Vacations...  I need one far, far away with no trees and no banks and lots of sand and frozen drinks.
  • Professional Skill Development...  The opportunity has presented itself and it may be time to get deep and dark in something specific rather than my current flavor of tech skill.
  • Church...  I can't say enough about how much I hope everyone finds something to believe in and then brings it into their lives.  I think I have and it's time to be more than the guy who watches the kids while the wife listens.
  • Writing...  I need to write more.  It cleanses the mind like sleep and exercise.  I own the domain for the next 20 years... might as well use it.  :)
Anyhow, we'll see where we get.  I probably won't write about all of this but part of it will find its way here for sure.  I have a Marlin Model 60 in pieces in the basement that has pushed its way to the front in my head...  Maybe I'll start there. 

Take are,

-JP