Making Lemonade

SpringRobinThe robins have arrived!

I didn’t make actual lemonade this week, however plans went awry and I had to adapt and make the best of things.  I haven’t spent a night in the woods since November and Winter Camping is one of the things I wanted to work on for 13Skills.  The weather was going to be decent this weekend in the Lost Creek Wilderness, highs in the 50s, lows in the 30s so I decided to head up there Friday afternoon with my son.  Knowing how long it would take to drive, I decided to camp close to the road at Goose Creek Campground, but I didn’t think to check if it was a Forest Service campground or not.  Turns out it is and it was closed.  We probably could have gotten away with pitching a tent, but I knew it wasn’t right and it was definitely not a good example for my son.  We did check it out and it’s a nice campground.  Beautifully wooded, right next to the cold waters of Goose Creek, and a first-come-first-served campground.

Easy Fire StartingTo make matters worse, it was getting late, the wind was picking up, and rain clouds were on the horizon.  We looked at a couple of spots and I decided to just make a fire to cook some hotdogs on and we would drive home in the dark.

Wanting to get things going quickly, I pulled out one of the fire straws I keep in my fire kit.  These are really simple to make:

  1. Cuts a straw to the length you want.  Mine fit in the tin I keep with my knife.
  2. Melt one end of the straw using needle nose pliers and a lighter.
  3. Mix a small amount of petroleum jelly with some cotton balls in a plastic bag.  Maybe one cotton ball sized dab of PJ to about 6 cotton balls.  Too much makes it hard for the cotton to catch a spark.
  4. Knead the bag to distribute the petroleum jelly.
  5. Stuff PJ soaked cotton ball into straw with needle nose pliers.
  6. Seal the other end of the straw.

These are really handy and never go bad.  When you need them, just cut one open and pull the cotton ball out.  Pull it apart some to increase the surface area available to catch a spark and put it in your tinder bundle.

Unfortunately for us, I didn’t build enough of a wind break and the wood never really caught fire.  PJ soaked cotton balls burn hot for several minutes so there was no other excuse for the fire to not start.  It was a good thing I had already planned to cook breakfast on the Coleman stove or I would have had to listen to a hungry boy until we got back to town!  Always have a Plan B, I even had a Plan C available in the form of the alcohol stove I keep in my day pack!PalmerPark1

Here’s where the lemonade part comes in.  Having been defeated by a “Closed” sign, we decided to go to Palmer Park here in town and do some hiking.  We saw more people, dogs, and mountain bikers than I really cared for, but at least we were out in the sun and “doing something”.  I was able to show my son how the local yucca can be used to make cordage and even as a sewing needle with built in thread (thanks Dual Survivor!).  I also demonstrated how to use a sighting compass and a map to determine your location, but I think he was getting tired at that point!

Seedlings_08APRLast, but not least, the seedlings are coming along well except for the peppers.  I may have to start some more of them.  Thanks for reading!

Grab Bag Post

It was a pleasant Spring Break with the kids, watching movies, a little hiking, and just spending time together.  I didn’t get any big projects done, but we did chip away at the on-going garden preparations.

Seedlings Status April 2

Seedlings Status April 2

The broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes we planted last week have started to sprout.  The peppers haven’t poked up yet though.  The celery is coming along well as you can see and the onions are growing towards the lights in the back of the box. Broccoli and cabbage are pretty cold hard, so they’re going into the ground by the end of April, a couple weeks before the last frost date.  Tomatoes can be transplanted immediately after last frost, but peppers and celery will have wait until June when they will be safe from frost.

I still have some work to do to get the bed ready.  I need to get the garden soil from last year’s container garden put in and possibly buy some more to get the bed filled to about three inches below the rim.  The rest of the bed will be filled with wood chip mulch to protect the seedlings and reduce watering.  That thick mulch layer will shield the soil from the sun and provide a source of organic material to break down and enrich the bed.

Another thing I’ve been doing to enrich the soil is adding coffee grounds.  I don’t have a compost pile, but you can add coffee grounds directly to the soil without composting!50rds of 30-06 for the next CMP shoot

Since I missed shooting in a competition last month, I wanted to be sure I was ready this month.  An hour was spent depriming and sizing brass one night.  Another night, I primed all the brass then started charging the gunpowder and seating bullets.  Mid way through, I found that I deformed some of the brass while trimming it by hand and it needed to be resized.  Ouch.  Looking at the resizing die, I realized I fix this if I took the depriming pin out and ran the now-primed brass back through.  It worked and I now have fifty rounds of 30-06 ready for my M1 Garand at the next local CMP match.

I’m a fan of Dave Canterbury and his approach to preparedness.  I especially appreciate his down to earth approach to things.  Now, I had been keeping my entire backpacking kit in my truck “just in case”, but it was too big and I thought I might have accumulated enough redundant items in my camp boxes that I could build a smaller kit that would fit in a small backpack I’m not using much these days.  Canterbury has several videos on his 10 C’s of survivability with the first five being the most important.  These are:

  1. Cutting Tool
  2. Covering Device
  3. Combustion Device
  4. Container
  5. Cordage

If you’re going to have repeats of any items, it should be these first five.  The remaining five are “nice to haves” and best suited to survival in the woods – Cotton bandana, compass, candeling device (light source), canvas needle, cargo tape (duct/duck/100mph tape).  Here’s my basic kit using the extras floating around my camp boxes:

Multi-tool, Knife, Cook Pot, Toiletries, Fire Kit, Space Blanket, Mirror

Multi-tool, Knife, Cook Pot, Toiletries, Fire Kit, Space Blanket, Mirror

Hammock, Cordage, GI Poncho, and Food

Hammock, Cordage, GI Poncho, and Food

  • Leatherman Multi-tool
  • Buck fixed blade knife
  • Small pot
  • Fire kit consisting of matches, ferro-rod with Gorilla tape handle, cotton pads with petroleum jelly
  • Space blanket
  • Toiletries – paper (can be used for fire) , wet wipes, lip balm (another possible fire fuel), tooth brushes
  • Folding mirror
  • Water purification tablets
  • Gorilla tape wrapped around card (yet another fire starter material)

 

  • Hammock (shelter)
  • Nylon cordage
  • GI Poncho (rain wear/shelter)
  • Training MRE (similar to but cheaper than a real MRE)

Not shown is a GI canteen or water and a canteen cup in the actual backpack, an Energizer headlamp that stays in the glove box of the truck, a small first aid kit, or the tools and jumper cables kept in the truck.  All of the 5 C’s are covered and most of the last five are included as well.  It’s probably not a full “72 hour kit”, but there’s enough here to keep me going for a day or two.

That’s enough for this week.  The weather is looking good for the weekend (32F nights), so maybe some cold weather camping is in order for next week’s post!

Definitely Not Spring Yet

DSC00733Sigh.  Another round of snow and wicked cold temperatures this weekend.  It would have been a good weekend to get some cold weather backpacking done, however, family is more important and with my daughter in town for Spring Break, I stayed home.  Things cleared up a bit this morning and I took the kids down to Garden of the Gods for some light hiking and picture taking.

DSC00760DSC00767

 

 

 

 

 

CeleryI’m very happy with how well the celery and onion are coming along.  According to my calendar it’s time to start the Cosmonaut Volkov Tomatoes, Jupiter Peppers, Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage, and De Cicco Broccoli.  So far, the seeds from Terroir Seeds have been doing very well.  They also sent along three packets of free seeds that I have passed on friends.  My son’s Cub Scout den is growing Bambina Carrots and Sweet Basil.Onions

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s all for this week.  Take care out there and keep working to make yourselves better.

Is it Spring Yet?

What a week for weather!  Highs in the 70s followed by 50s and freezing overnight.  Fresh snow on Pikes Peak and all of the snow in the yard is melted.  None the less, we’ll likely have some cold nights ahead of us and I did fix the chainsaw last week…

After verifying my repair work by slicing up a dozen logs earlier this week, it was time to do some splitting.  When I first started splitting my own firewood a few years back, I started with a maul, a sledgehammer, and a couple of wedges.  These are great choices for logs around a foot across, but I’ve been splitting logs under six inches and there are better tools for the job.  Now, it’s easy to go overboard when looking for an axe.  I discovered this while hanging out on a knife and bushcraft forum.  Some people there rave about their Granfors Bruks axes and which go back and forth over which size is the perfect axe.  Now, I have nothing against them, but the cost can be mind-boggling.  I needed something to work around the house and maybe take backpacking.  I found the Fiskars X15 to be a nice compromise for those two uses and enjoy using it very much.

Splitting Wood

A few of the bigger pieces needed the maul to get started, but that pile is primarily the product of the X15.  After this, the maul and the axe needed a little touching up to ensure they’d work this well next time.  You might think sharpening an axe is something esoteric and difficult to do, but it’s really quite simple and it takes many of the same tools you might use to sharpen a knife.

Axe Sharpening

Start with a small bastard file and try to match the angle of the axe blade by placing the file as close as possible to the side of the axe blade.  Slowly file the edge with slight pressure to avoid removing too much metal too quickly.  After the major nicks are out, I switch to the a diamond knife sharpener.  Running the sharpener, coarse side first, towards the blade, I try to match the existing blade angle.  After touching up the blade edge with the coarse and fine sides of the diamond hone, I like to use a leather strop to the put that little bit of polish on the edge like I do with my knives.

DSC00721

You can still see a very small nick in the edge on the right edge of this photo, but the blade will now shave hair off my arm just like it did when it was new.  The Frog Lube puts a layer of oil on things to prevent rust and has a great minty smell.  I love the stuff!

Garden update time!  I now have twelve celery seedling and the onions I started last week are already starting to come up.

Seedlings March 17th

I was not very happy with the stand I built to hold the lighting rig I built.  Half-inch PVC is just not rigid enough to support the weight.  I have since upgraded to 3/4 inch PVC pipe and the result is much better.  You might also notice, I swapped the bungee cord arrangement for chain attached to two eyelet bolts in the top bar.  Total cost was $15.

DSC00718

Well, that’s all for this week.  Next week, I’ll be starting a bunch of seeds and looking for a different tray arrangement.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Two Weeks Later – High School Chemistry Comes In Handy

Sorry about taking a week off – it was a very humdrum week and I didn’t have anything inspiring me to write.  This week hasn’t been that exciting either.  I got some reloading done to go to a USPSA match here in town, but the weather was nasty and I didn’t go because there was another match down in Pueblo this weekend.  Again though, the weather was horrid and I stayed home.  I’ve got one more opportunity to meet my goal of shooting competitively each month, so I’m praying for good weather.

As I wrote in a previous post, I started some celery seeds last month.  I was starting to get worried as we were inside the 10-20 day germination period and nothing was happening.  Then, on Day 15, one seedling poked above the soil.

Celery Seedling

Celery Seedling

Hooray!  Today, as I post this there are now six celery seedlings coming up and according to my calendar it was time to start the onions.  I’ll give the celery a few more days to come up before I recycle the newspaper pots and soil into the raised bed, but I’ve got enough for my garden now.

The rest of my weekend was spent doing some basic maintenance on our vehicles, changing oil and checking fluids.  Stuff I’ve been doing since I was a teenager and isn’t in my 13 Skills challenge, but I noticed something that makes me think I’ll be replacing a car battery soon.

Battery Terminal Before

Battery Terminal Before

Pretty nasty looking isn’t it?  It’s caused by the sulfuric acid fumes coming from inside the battery.  I didn’t want this causing any more damage so I dug back into some high school chemistry to get rid of this mess.  The cup you see in the picture has some hot water, baking soda, and a wire brush in it.  The baking soda in the water creates a basic solution that neutralizes the acid and makes cleaning this up safe and easy.

Battery Terminal After

Battery Terminal After

Ta Da!  Shiny terminals again.  The copper sulfate turned my baking soda solution that green color.  I rinsed the top of the battery with purified water to clean things up.  This is a maintenance free battery and it’s three years old, so I’m taking this an indication it needs to be replaced soon.

I didn’t take any pictures, but I also repaired my chainsaw this weekend.  It’s an old Husqvarna model that I picked up at a pawn shop for relatively little cash.  Once I got it working last year by pulling the spark plug and replacing the old fuel, it sufficed to handle the minor cutting duties to allow us to use the fireplace a few times each year.  However, my wife had to brainstorm for me to use the chainsaw to level off the top of a large log in our backyard to use as a pedestal for a bird bath.  Shortly after that attempt at chainsaw carving (it’s alot harder than it looks!) the sprocket in the chain bar froze and the chainsaw was now kaput.  Again, the Internet came to the rescue!  After downloading the manual, I found I could replace the original 16 inch bar with a 20 inch bar and new chain.  Total cost was about $60 (over half what I paid for the saw), but it cuts like a dream now.  The extra bar length means I can cut through almost anything left from an old elm tree we had cut down three years ago.

I hope that was worth the wait.  Happiness is a sharp chainsaw!

Garden Planning

Last year’s garden was a really pitiful, thrown together affair.  A few buckets, some seeds, a tomato plant, soil and compost (all from Lowes) thrown together in early June in hopes of having something to show for it by the end of summer.  Despite the haphazard nature of my efforts, it was starting to produce when a raccoon decided to help himself to it.  He got a half dozen green tomatoes, ate my broccoli down to the dirt before it even produced a head, and nibbled the carrot tops to nothing.  All I got was a few leaves of lettuce before he destroyed those as well.

DSC00668

So, I got a gardening book, read some more web pages and got smarter.  This year, instead of a container garden, I’m planning a small raised bed with a square foot gardening approach.  It will be six feet long by two feet wide, giving me twelve square feet to plant.  Along the way I learned about heirloom seeds and the huge variety of plants available and found Terroir Seeds.  I won’t bore you with the details of what I’m planting today, but I am going to talk about the planting calendar. Continue reading