2016-05-09

Making a water jug

We had a jug of maple syrup I bought from Samuel Thayer last year (the noted Herbalist, that's another story). Well, we finally used enough of it (Jess has some of it too) that I could dump the remainder into a different jar, and yay, we had a jug!

Well, I was a bit worried about carrying a glass jug around, what if it hits something and cracks or shatters? Several years ago I saw someone getting water from a spring using large jugs that had been covered in basketry done probably from willow, and I thought gee... that's a cool solution.

Last week we were out on a hike and walking down the road to a trailhead. A farmer in a flatbed pickup (with 2 round bails on it) stopped to chat and tell us he was impressed that we'd stayed out through all the rain. He was sweet and we talked a bit about his scouting career and local news. The next day he stopped by our camp and handed us a pile of jute bailing twine (stuff he probably cut off his hay-bails) to use a tinder.

Well, we didn't really need it, and I came up with another use:

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I was having fun and got kind of artistic... by which I really mean lazy. The bottom is started more like a classic basket, then goes to a twined basket as the spokes get too far apart. I was making the whole thing up as I went along... so it's not the prettiest, but I still thought it was kind of cool.

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Note that if I did this again I'd use more of a knotted net method (diamonds)... I realized that would probably be a lot faster and easier, but trying basketry with bailing twine was fun. It brought back memories of my childhood when the default twine that was always available for a kid to do stupid things with was bailing twine.

We finally retired my trusty old plastic Hi-C jug that I've been using for several years. The handle stuck on the top of this jug in the first photo is actually one I made out of need for that jug in 2013 or so.

Tarp pitches for car camping

After a quick stop in Pennsylvania to visit Angie's friends we went out to Seneca rocks for some climbing... or well, mostly for camping in the rain. We used the experience to learn a bit more about comfortably car camping in the rain - something I've done with my parents, but not spent much time developing a system for myself (since when I did a lot of car camping, and had a car, I lived in CA, where it doesn't rain)

Here's some articles from the past on tarp pitches for backpacking, something I have lots of experience with:
http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2010/03/tarp-howtos-and-tips-even-for-tenters.html
http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2012/06/super-simple-tarp-pitch.html

Here's what we've found to work best so far:
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We tied the center to the back of  roof basket, then the other end of the ridgeline is tied to a tree using a length of line.

Next we take angie and my hiking poles, extend them to full length, and place these at each corner (This was actually Angie's idea, and it's great, it saves a lot of hunting for sticks). My old tarp (this is the one I used on the AT), has loops tied on each corner already, so these simply go over the ends of the poles, then a line is tied from there out to the ground at a 135 degrees from either edge of the tarp (pulling away from the center of the tarp). This tar is siloconized... or maybe I should say "was" siliconized, and could use another treatment, but it still worked fine, except where the back window touched it causing it to drip a little.

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Note that with what is shown in this picture the tarp will fill with water and collapse (which it nearly did actually). To complete the pitch tie the middle of the two edges to the ground with line, pulling down and out from the center of the tarp (just like the ones on the poles, but without poles). This creates "drains" where the water can escape the edge of the tarp.

I'm going to call this the "house" pitch. In essence it is nothing but my favorite backpacking pitch (the pup-tent pitch as I usually call it), but up on poles.

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Because of the placement directly over the back of the truck, if we get it tight enough and square enough to the truck we can leave the rear window and tailgate open and get only the most minor of dripping. This is great, because it means accessing our stuff and getting in and out doesn't get everything wet!



This was the second tarp pitch we tried. The first was down the length of one side of the truck, tying to the rack at one end and to a stick or just over the cab on the other, then using the poles for the other 2 corners. That pitch worked fine, but didn't cover the back entrance. At one point someone (probably me) left the back open for a bit in a light rain and the open cell foam mattress we were using got soaked... That mattress got trashed as a result. I'd always heard open cell foam was a bad idea, now I've seen it in action.
I'm going to call this pitch the "awning" pitch.It's fundamentally a lean-to pitch on poles.

The other problem is just that due to the dimensionality of the tarp the space was kind of hard to use. I think because the tarp ends up folded along the long instead of the short axis, the resulting space is more long and skinny. It's also lower overall. In the house pitch the center of the tarp is the highest point, so the part of the tarp that stays dry also lets you stand up. In the "awning" pitch the highest part is up against the truck, where you get drips down the truck all the time, and where you can't stand ('cause there's a truck there).

Using the house pitch made our time in the rain a LOT more comfortable. We were able to use the wooden box you see in the center as a chair or table. We could prepare food for cooking, and eat it, without being rained on. We were still cooking on the fire in the background, but it's just a short run out in the rain to fiddle with it. My tarp is an 8x10, and I did find myself wishing for a 10x12 (we have one, but it's on the trailer right now), so I'm curious to give that a try in the future.

2016-04-27

Cooking, cast iron, and dutch ovens

A while back Angie and I we're talking about what gear we wanted for living in the truck, and we got in to cooking gear. Last time I used an aluminum dutch oven, which worked pretty well, but it's a little small for two. Also, Angie gets a little anemic sometimes and was really enjoying the dietary Iron she's been getting from cooking in cast iron all the time. So, we decided what we really wanted was a 5 quart cast iron dutch oven.

Angie let a friend know and not long after that friend contacted her with a photo of this pot she found at an auction for ~$25.0

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I couldn't believe it. It's an old Wagner... really old. It's light, and in basically perfect condition, and we've been using it as our primary pot since Angie got it.

Strictly speaking it's not a dutch-oven, since it lacks the flat lid with the lip on the edge, but it's plenty good enough and works very well for what we need. Even better than that, it's stable when you hang it from the bail, even when completely full of water, so it can used for cooking on a tripod. That's really rare in a cast-iron pot, and extremely useful. The antique ones are also far lighter than modern cast-iron, and smoother as well, making them really superior in every way for actually cooking in. I'd expected anything this good would've been way out of our price-range.

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We're also bringing my antique cast iron pan, as well as 2 old aluminum backpacking/camping pots. My dad got the smaller one when he was in college, already used, and found the older one later, so those act as soup-pots for things like oatmeal.

We've been using this set of dishes for a while, since well before we hit the road (since we'd already gotten rid of the rest of our pots), and find it to be more than sufficient for virtually everything we cook. Notice the metal spatula in the first picture... I learned the hard way that this is key to using cast-iron as you can keep things from sticking with this far better than a plastic or wooden spatula.

If you don't know the secret to dutch ovens, the neat thing is not only can this be used as a pot, and a frying pan, it can also be used like an oven. If you bury it in coals you can bake bread, pizza, finish pancake, or virtually anything else.

Anyway, if you have a pot like this, don't let it go... or better yet, give it to me :).