2016-12-28

Antique lanterns and stoves

I ended up with 2 antique lanterns and an antique stove.

My parent's gave me this lantern for Christmas:

IMG_20161228_142914 IMG_20161228_142740

This is sold as a "portable brass candle lantern" by Garret Wade. It turns out this is a non-exact replica of a "Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern" (thus the writing on the top), which was invented around 1906. Here's some further information on it http://thewoodslife.com/?p=82

The glass is actually mica, which is less brittle than glass would be. It looks very usable and robust in practice, folding flat with the fragile bits protected by solid brass when folding and popping open almost on it's own. It's kind of an amazing piece of gear, and has an undeniable attraction and ambiance to it as well. The only downside is that this one weighs about 18 ounces (contrary to Garret Wade's site, which claims 12 ounces). Then each candle is 2 ounces. That's a little much for using backpacking, though it may not stop me from bringing it on a trip eventually as I hone my gear further.

My parent's also said that I could have one of their antique candle lanterns from the attic if I wanted it, so we went digging in their attic for a while and I eventually turned this one up:

IMG_20161228_134819

This is an old Trangia candle lantern. Trangia is a Swiss company making gear for, among other things, the Swiss military. So, in the most literal sense, this is a Swiss Army lantern.

It's made of aluminum. The bottom section holds the candle, and a spring to feed it. The middle section is what looks to be a cellulose based "glass" to let the light pass through, and the top is just a chimney, protecting the flame from the wind further. The whole thing telescopes twice in to the top. Looking around the internet I was able to find only one picture of this model lantern... so now I guess there will be more.

Here's the section the candle fits in with the feeder spring:

IMG_20161228_134858

It's a really cool lantern, looking very pack-able and robust while packed, while weighing in at ~4 ounces. The candles are thinner, so will burn up faster, and they have to be a perfect fit, where the other lantern allows you to fudge almost any candle in to working. These thin candles are a little harder to find, so I may have to experiment a bit figuring out what is easy to get and works well. If I can figure that out this lantern may be just the ticket for my non-plastic backpacking gearset.

Lastly, while my dad was up in the attic he also found this stove:

IMG_20161228_154554

It's a classic Coleman from around the Vietnam War era. It needed a little oil on the leather pump gasket, but that's it. I just tested it with a little help from my dad and she lit right up (with a few bouts of 5 foot flames, hopefully I can get a little better at it). Fundamentally it's the same thing as any of the modern whitegas stoves, like the whisperlight that Angie and I use. The packaging is just a little different. The stove just goes perfectly with the Coleman 200A lantern I finished refurbishing recently (also out of my parent's attic).

I remember using the Coleman stove backpacking when I was a kid, alongside a svea and an optimus 80. My dad carried the Trangia lantern for years. My aluminum cookset was also my dad's and one of the pots we know is from at least the 60s, and dad got it used then. There's something about old gear. It embodies a connection with the past I guess. But, even practically you know they are good, or they wouldn't be around anymore. All of these pieces, like the 200A, are incredibly simple. There's no plastic, and they are made to be repaired not thrown away. When I asked dad how to clean the jet on the Coleman he said he's never had to, and his dad had one and never had to either.... A lot of this old stuff just works. Often the new gear is too much better to warrant it, but all things equal I'd always rather use old gear than new. I like the connection to the past.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” 
― William Morris

Both is even better, and to me well made axes, knives, stoves, lanterns, and their ilk embody that spirit like little else. I don't know if all of this stuff will come with Angie and I back to North Dakota... but some of it will, and I'm not letting go of any of it either. I hope to report back on actually using some of this stuff once we get the truck sorted out.

2016-12-23

Coleman lantern rebuild

A while back while I was visiting my parent's, I mentioned that I was toying with getting a lantern. We use a white-gas stove when a fire is too much trouble or not legal, so we already have whitegas around. So, Angie and I thought it might be nice to have a whitegas lantern around. It turned out dad had an old one in the attic that he pulled out and gave to me. It had no glass, and when I tried to light it up it didn't work

But... now it DOES work:

IMG_20161223_160128

With a little poking around I figured out that this is an old Coleman 200A (and then I noticed the label that said exactly that on the side... heh). I ordered it a new glass.

I tried lighting it over and over again. I pumped it up and it held pressure. I did a little more reserach to make sure I understood how the pump worked, how the lighting process worked... but it just wouldn't light. It didn't even make any sounds when I tried. After more research online I found a lot of folks mentioning pouring out the fuel, pouring in ethanol, slosh it around, leave it there a day, then pour it out. Then rinse with whitegas again, and finally refill it and try again. I even found a reference in the directions for the 200A.

After I did that it made noise when I turned the valve it did make sounds, but still nothing would light... shoot. So, then I found this video:


Following this I disassembled the lantern and checked each component. I tried pumping it up and cracking the valve a bit with the generator on, but didn't really smell gas. I also tried with the generator off, and it bubbled, but only a little. I talked to my dad a bit, and we decided whatever was wrong it was clearly in the fuel takeup. After I'd taken it apart it became obvious that the fuel-air tube had a hole at the bottom for fuel, and one at the top for gas, clearly it wasn't mixing them right. After I pulled the fuel-air tube off I noticed the pin inside was very rough feeling, so I scratched and cleaned it, then ran it over an Emory cloth to really get it smooth.

Woot! I'd probably just found and fixed the problem! Then I reassembled it. Most of the parts are screwed on quite tightly, so I screwed the fuel-air tube on tight... and sheered it. Damn. Quick search on ebay and I found one for $5 and $5 more shipping. That came in today, so I put it back together and Hey! It works!

Here it is unlit for a better view:
IMG_20161223_142352

  • $6.50 for new mantles (I have 2 spare still, busted one while figuring it all out)
  • $12.00 or so for  the glass
  • $10.00 for a new fuel-air tube
So ~$28.50 total to get it working, $10 of which was only because I stupidly broke it. Not bad! Lanterns of this sort sell for $50-$200 depending on condition. This one has a touch of rust on the burner frame, but otherwise is in really nice condition, You can't get a new one much cheaper.

Fun little project... I'm excited to hang it under my cotton-sheet tarp supported by sticks for that nice homey feel once we get the truck back.

2016-12-12

Standing rock: Is it over?

Here's one opinion:
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/05/504420616/standing-rock-leader-asks-those-who-are-not-sioux-to-leave-pipeline-protest-area

And I just learned of another.

If you've been following, you'll know from my last post that Angie and I are in Bismarck North Dakota, after rolling our truck (and we're both completely uninjured... awesome). Here's that post: http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2016/12/rolled-truck-in-north-dakota-blizzard.html.

Today we left our motel 6 up on the northern end of Bismarck and walked down to the car repair place to chat with them and swap out a little gear before leaving on a bus this evening for Fargo where we'll catch a train east. It started at a toasty 5F this morning with almost no wind but slowly got colder, and that's how we found ourselves ducking in to a Starbucks cafe in a Target to warm up Angie's phone for a moment so it would work to look for the coffee shop we were headed for. While poking at her phone a man walks up and asks "Are you headed to the protests?" Angie explained that we had been, but rolled our car. He then proceeded to explain that the protests are NOT over.

Here's what he told us:

There are apparently a couple of major leaders. There's the widely recognized Dave Archambault III who is Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. There is also Ladonna who is apparently the sister of the man who was talking to us. A quick internet search finds he likely meant LaDonna Brave Bull Allard – Oglala Lakota. Here's some an article by her: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-the-founder-of-standing-rock-sioux-camp-cant-forget-the-whitestone-massacre-20160903

Anyway, this man told us that she actually started the protests not 
Dave Archambault III. I guess a lot of Sioux are Skeptical of Archambault and there are rumors that he accepted a bribe to stop the protests. Apparently LaDonna wants to continue the protests.

He noted that there are several camps, this I knew. It's not too hard to read between the lines and realize these are controlled by different factions. The Sacred Stone camp was the first, and I guess this is the one started by LaDonna. This camp is also on... I believe he said federal land... and thus the governor doesn't have jurisdiction to issue an eviction. The camp that has the eviction is on private (and thus state controlled) land, and is often reffered to as the "overflow" camp. The man we talked to called it this several times. The one with all the flags and stuff you see all over facebook.

He said that if you go to the Sacred Stone camp to truly be helpful you will be welcomed. He said they are still looking for carpenters, plumbers, etc. and are in it for the long haul, building permanent structures.

When Angie and I attempted to contact the Standing Rock organizers we contacted the "Medic and Healers council" which is somewhat separate from any of the separate groups and runs tents in all of the camps. Their primary aim being to spread knowledge of traditional healing and just to keep people safe and healthy, spiritually and physically.
One of my goals in going was to see for myself and talk to people on the ground about what is going on. So I wanted to pass this along. There is a lot of conflicting information out there... This backs up the idea that one major reason is that there are a number of major leaders (often associated with camps) involved who do not necessarily agree.

Update:Here's some official word confirming both the general sense, and the specifics of what I wrote about above.

https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/native-news/dapl-water-protectors-forge-way-forward-black-snake/

2016-12-10

Rolled the truck in North Dakota blizzard

I've already posted this to social media, but it never made it to the blog

Here's my facebook post (with more photos):
I rolled the truck, Angie and I are just fine.


15391066_10105960935569812_3484564773120834258_n

Driving through north dakota we hit a blizzard. I was trying to be careful, but ended up spinning out on the ice. Truck hit the edge of the road going fairly slowly, but just barely rolled over in deep snow. The truck ended up upside down.

IMG_4472
A Morton County Sheriff stopped just as we were calling for a tow, after we'd checked ourselves for injuries. He was incredibly nice, and had us sit in the back of his cruiser while he got all the information. Eventually he ended up taking us to a bar nearby.
All the tow-trucks were busy, they closed the interstates. The bar-keep called the Sheriff's department again to give us (and another guy who'd stuck his truck in the snow) a ride in to town. Even with everything going on a Sheriff showed up... I felt bad because a tow-truck had only *just* given us a real ETA and was on the way. The sheriff was super nice about it. We got back to town with the truck in tow at something like 11:30 at night.
IMG_4480


So, the truck is now in a shop, and we're in a hotelroom. The hotel we were in last night was booked, so we ended up walking across town in the snow... Interesting times.
So... we never made it to the protests. On the other hand, we did get some interesting stories. The Sheriff who helped us out said he got death threats related to the protests. He and others said they really didn't care about the pipeline overall though. Some in the bar were much more opposed.
Anyway... we're fine. Waiting to get the truck looked at by the insurance company

since then:
Well... temps here have varied from around 5F to -15F below not including. We've been walking around town, hanging out in coffee shops, and eating restaurant food. No word yet on whether the truck is totaled.

Being us we're well outfitted. Fur hats, gortex overmitts, thinsulate lined mittens, wool liner gloves, down coats, multiple layers of pants, scarfs... etc. We haven't even been using all our layers:
IMG_4483

So, we're fine... The truck looks to be in repairable shape one way or another. The doors are still perfectly aligned with the body, so that means the main pillars are fine. The roof is just caved in. This implies that it's probably just sheet-metal that's damaged. The cap is cracked a bit, but the roof rack looks salvagable. Almost none of our stuff was damaged.

Hopefully the insurance company will want to repair it... if not I may be posting about how to register a salvage title vehicle in MA :P. The legal mumbo jumbo is pretty confusing, but we shall see!

Looking up, and taking a train home for Christmas.


2016-12-01

Heading to the Standing Rock Ceremonies

Angie and I have decided to go try and help out (if we can) with the water protector's ceremony. We've both promised our families we'll be home for Christmas (a bit ironic, I know... but it's when my family gets together every year), so we'll be there for only a short time... whether we go back afterward is open and probably dependent on how helpful it looks like we can be.

Our plan is to show up, stay on the outskirts away from the center and away from conflict, and watch for things we can respectfully attempt to help with. We tried a few contacts to see if we could rustle up an internal contact but failed... so we're just going to go. Angie is a Nurse, I have a variety of practical skills, and (hopefully) we're decently kitted out to deal with ourselves and avoid becoming a burden on the camp. There's always a chance we'll just turn around and leave, depending.

This blog doesn't usually get political. I try to keep it to just facts and information about being outdoors... but sometimes politics sneak in around the edges because it's what I'm doing, or because it's directly related to outdoors pursuits, like with the Buffalo Field Campaign post I wrote some time back.

There are a lot of articles out there about NoDAPL, and surprisingly little information. I've been sifting through what I can, trying to get the real information. What I think I know is that this is about two related issues:
  1. American Indians (I'm using the term I have most often heard is preferred... sorry if it's not in this case) taking yet another stand for something after hundreds of years of being trampled on.
  2. It's about the environmental cause of keeping water clean... heightened by the special religious place that water holds in the various Sioux traditions.
I've read repeatedly that #1 is very important. The show is being run by the Standing Rock Sioux who's sacred land is at risk, and has been repeatedly violated and shrunk in the past... and folks of other backgrounds tromping on toes to try and "help" are not appreciated.

Anyway... here's some sources that are a bit more fact based

The first article is fairly comprehensive as to the legal situation and a general rundown of events... It also seems fairly unvarnished:
http://heavy.com/news/2016/09/dakota-access-pipeline-protests-video-photos-dogs-map-dapl-routes-north-oil-mace-standing-rock-sioux-native-american-indian-energy-transfer-kelcy-warren-bakken-lawsuit/

One thing they miss is the actual safety of pipelines. For environmental impact, or oil spilled, they are worse than trains (which is what is in use now). Why push for a pipeline then? Because it's cheaper:

It also misses the more mundane day-to-day story and what most of the people at Standing Rock are doing... Media only reports when things get violent, and mostly things haven't been violent: It's important to realize that this is thousands of people when considering that allegedly someone fired 3 shots. This article is less "just facts" but I think is still helpful background reading for what is really going on:
http://earthjustice.org/blog/2016-november/we-re-missing-90-percent-of-the-dakota-access-pipeline-story#

Pipeline leak detection techniques are not very good.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/massive-oil-pipeline-break-under-nd-farmers-wheat-field/

Here's something I read early on that I think is really helpful for non-American-Indians understanding what's going on, and how to actually be helpful.
https://medium.com/@liampurvis/12-loose-rules-to-follow-as-an-effective-ally-at-standing-rock-a-blueprint-for-white-solidarity-66cb4010a35f#.iolws510a

And, to lighten the mood a little:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZJXvoxmR2I

2016-11-20

Nordhouse Dunes ecology

Here's a panoramic photo of some of the dunes (click through to really see it)
PANO_20161108_112623

We spent a week near Nordhouse Dunes in northern Michigan, on the edge of lack Michigan. We went on a number of dayhikes, just enjoying the interesting ecology. It was actually highly varied. A lot of it was wooded, some was hardwood forest like below

IMG_20161107_123939

But there was also white pine forests and red pine forests. In the more open areas ferns grew everywhere and probably the most wintergreen I've ever seen. 

The bare dunes are out by the water where supposedly there are plovers that run up and down the beach... though they are very hard to spot (we never saw any).

IMG_20161108_105354

We saw several plants we only recognized due to picking seeds on Adam's farm. It's amazing how once you've worked with a plant a little you start seeing it everywhere

I *think* this is a liatris, I'm more sure about the one next to it. I suspect they are the same, but I'm not certain.
IMG_20161112_111615

And this looks like an interesting goldenrod
  IMG_20161112_111523

Both plants we helped gather at Adam's

We also saw aster, and either dolls-eye or a close relative, out on the open dunes. Sadly I didn't get pictures of those.

We ended up bushwhacking out to a dry lake bed IMG_20161107_111407

The mud was just covered in tracks. below are a bunch of what I think are coon prints. We stared at some other prints for a long time and I kept thinking they must be mustilid of some kind (I believe it had 5 toes on both sets of feet, and the hind foot seemed to be in the rear), but I'm still not sure. Sadly I didn't get a photo of those.

IMG_4343

The bare dunes were good for prints too. I think are just a squirrel that didn't put down it's heal on it's hind feet.
IMG_4379

I guess I didn't mention the beech trees, which were just amazing colors.

IMG_20161105_140535

We camped in the site above for the whole week, a nice hiking distance from the water before moving to another part of michigan for the next week. The nordhouse dunes were pretty gorgeous at this time of year and we were lucky to get there just before the leaves finished the show.

Dutch Oven Baking tricks

Angie has been doing some AWESOME baking with the dutch oven lately. She made a couple of batches of cookies, as well as bread pudding, and I made a finish pancake. A friend asked us to share whatever tricks she used to get that all to come out so well.

Here's some cookies. These are supposed to be backed at ~350F. We don't have an *actual* dutch oven, just a nice cast-iron cookpot with a lid, so she turned the lid upside down and dumped coals in it using a small shovel.

IMG_20161113_120102

To keep it going for things that take a little while she throws small sticks on the coals that burn as well, keeping the coals a little more alive so they don't slowly die off. Having the pot hanging from a tripod rather than directly in the fire lets her control the heat of the bottom of the pot without having to super carefully manage the fire and coals. This makes it much easier to avoid burning the bottom of the cookies

Here's the rather delicious results.

IMG_20161113_120053

Here's my finish pancake cooking. Notice that we dumped a lot more coals on top of the pot, and the fire is a little hotter and/or the pot is closer to the fire. Finnish pancake is supposed to bake at ~450F. We probably got it a little over that because it cooked in the "expected" time... but it was much thicker than the recipe recommends

IMG_20161116_102532

This was my second time making finish pancake over a fire... The first time we did it at my friend's place using a grating. The bottom of the finish pancake burned slightly because the fire under it was too hot. It still came out good, but not nearly as perfect as this one did.

IMG_20161116_103227

Notice how it didn't stick to the bottom at all (it's brown on top because I used whole-wheat flour).

Delicious!

Char Cloth

Char cloth is a really neat material that helps enormously with starting fires from a spark (or from a small coal). I've been experimenting with it a bit lately and I'm a HUGE fan. It's great stuff if you want to reliably start fires from a spark... particularly a tiny spark like a true flint and steel. Also... it turns out to be stupidly easy to make.

Find some pure cotton material. My first try was bedsheets shown below, but I found T-shirt worked better
IMG_20161112_141058

Stick it in a tin that has some small air-holes. An altoids tin has just the right amount of airflow already, so works well. Throw that in the fire for a while. Wait until it stops smoking (and jets of flame stop coming out the hinge), and then wait a while longer. If you don't feel like watching it just throw it in for a couple of hours, it doesn't seem to matter. Pull it out of the fire and set it aside. Don't open it yet.

IMG_20161112_141046

When it's cool open it up. You'll have black material. It's fragile, but still sturdy enough you can pick it up and handle it.

IMG_20161112_142310

And now you have char cloth.

To use it, take a small pieces, maybe a quarter of one of the pieces shown above. Drop a a spark on it. You'll see that even a tiny spark will make a little red coal that starts spreading slowly across the fabric. with better fabrics it will spread slowly of it's on accord, even with no blowing, worse it'll spread a little and go out unless you blow on it. The difference between the two is fairly significant when you go to use it.

IMG_20161117_161444

Drop that burning piece of fabric in to your tinder bundle. Here I'm using some fairly dry fern that was common around our campsite in Michigan.

IMG_20161117_161453

Blow in to the tinder bundle. Focus on getting long continuous streams of air, rather than lots of air fast. Continuous is more important... Increase it a bit as things start to heat up. At some point it'll start to flame up... drop it before you burn your hands.

IMG_20161117_161500

Then use that to light your fire so you can cook.

IMG_20161116_102532

For the last several days this is how I've started virtually every fire (usually 2 a day). I hadn't really experimented with char-cloth before this, but I'm a big fan.

Just as some other notes on interesting materials for starting fires with a spark. Cat-tail fluff is classic, but I've found the tips flash over really fast and the inner bits never burn... you have to spend a lot of time picking it apart. And it burns fast but not hot, so it's very hard to use it to actually light something else. It's probably good for turning a VERY bad spark in to something you can light with a very good spark, but that's all.

Milkweed on the other hand lights so fast and hard that it can make a little "pop" sound and burns the entire material. It still lights with the tiniest spark, but seems to have enough energy to light something like dry ferns.

Bow-drill and handrill is really neat, but I've never spent the energy to get good enough at them. Matches are a great backup, but you run out quickly. Lighters work well, but are very hard to use in the cold, and often won't light if they've gotten wet enough. Sparkers always work, you can get thousands of sparks off a single stick, and they are fast and easy... the only problem is you need good tinder.

2016-11-10

Backpacking in the Ozarks

Angie and I did a 3 day (2 night) section of the Ozark trail.

Gear:I was playing with interesting gear. Here's a picture of the gear I carried:
IMG_20161022_174248

  • Rafia rope (used for bearbagging, and tying gear to pack)
  • Not quite complete waxed-cotton poncho
  • Alpaca fur sleepingbag in E-Vent drysack
  • Stakes in a cotton bag
  • Wool sweater
  • Second wool sweater
  • Waxed cotton-polyester canvas shirt
  • Cotton canvas hat
  • Titanium cookpot
  • Bushbuddy woodstove
  • Kleen-kanteen stainless steel food container (as water bottle)
  • Antique external frame pack
  • Knife in leather sheath
  • 3 cotton bandanas
  • "emergency" kit (firestarting, etc.)
  • cotton-poly blend 5.11 pants
  • wool darn-tough socks
  • leather shoes
For this trip I also carried my plastic poncho, because my cotton one isn't quite done yet, and I needed a poncho in case it rained.
The straps pictured on the pack were left behind in favor of practicing with non-plastic rope.
Trip:

Unused to Missouri we decided to try some fire-starting materials:
IMG_20161023_134844
  IMG_20161023_134825

We found that we could use puff from a local plant, not sure what it was maybe a golden-rod of some kind? to catch the spark. Then we could use a lichen as a coal extender so it would burn long enough to light sticks. This worked quite well, but only if the lichen was dry enough... so we tried to store it so it would be dry when we went to use it. Dew was sometimes enough to dampen it too much, sometimes it was still okay.

Johnson shutins was gorgeous. We'd actually been there earlier, but it was great to go back.We almost just stopped there and stayed for a day
IMG_20161024_101647

A nice campsite and delicious food. We split cooking so I could practice with the wood stove, and because our two pots weren't large enough to cook all the food I brought. I've been eating a LOT lately so I carried double dinner for myself. We discovered that I need a larger cookpot :P

  IMG_20161023_164555

This is the "scour". That line above is an incomprehensibly large damn wall surrounding a reservoir on top of a large hill. Some years ago it burst and flowed down carving a huge scour out of the ground on it's way through. The restitution they payed for the damage done was used to rebuild all the human components of Johnson Shutins. That wall was just amazing to look at. It's a long way away still in this photo. I'd seen it on our drive in and yelled my surprise to Angie as we rounded to top of a hill but it was too late for her to see it. This was her first view.

IMG_20161024_123924

At the other end we stuck out our thumbs for a hitch. I was curious to see how it went in Missouri. It took half an hour but a really really sweet guy picked us up and decided to drive us all the way back to our car (not what we expected or were even hoping for, but we were very thankful). Nothing like hitchhiking to meet the nicest people.

A great trip. Angie and I definitely fell in love with Missouri while we were there. it's quite the beautiful place.

2016-10-19

Ecological Restoration with Adam Weiss

A while back Angie and I met our friend Adam Weiss at the Rivercane gathering in Georgia. We ended up going on all the plant-walks together and Adam told us about his work in ecological restoration. We decided we had to visit him in the Ozarks.

And so, we made a stop by the Ozarks on our way west. What he showed us was pretty amazing.

IMG_20161004_193152

The photo above is one of Adam's fields, a Prairie that Adam re-established on his farm. He manages the fields with fire, burning them regularly. He's gotten so good at it that he does it for a living managing other people's land as well. The bio-diversity of these fields is amazing. Herbs, food, and fiber plants growing all over the place.

A while back while I was at the Buckeye gathering in California Cat Anderson (the author of "Tending the Wild") came to speak. Everyone there was ecstatic because they'd all read Tending The Wild, and all had been convinced by it that human's are fundamentally a part of the ecosystem. For many, myself included, this book changed their view of people as only destroyers of the world, to that of keepers, even gardeners, of it. Her book establishes in an academically rigorous manner that human's have played a major role in the ecosystem for many thousands of years, long enough that we are now an integral part of it... Thus, if we simply "leave it alone" it will not return to it's natural state, because we are a PART of it's natural state.

At this gathering though, everyone waited with baited breath for Cat Anderson to tell them *how* to do that. She stood up in front of the crowd and explained she didn't know... she'd been hoping that we could tell her how to do it. A hush ran over the crowd as it hit us all that there was a much longer path than any of us had realized... there was no-one to teach us, we had to figure this out ourselves.

Adam on the other hand, seems to have figured out a piece of this puzzle. He's doing the same with forests as well, using fire, removing invasives, thinning forests into woodland, and re-establishing the old ecologies again. There are other people establishing "Prairie" as well, but Adam is the only one anyone has heard of who is using local seed, or who's prairie come out so diverse. Basically... he's farther along in re-establishing real ecologies, than anyone else I'm aware of. If you've read at all about "land-race" verities of plants (e.g. corn, they discuss this in 1984, which is also great background for this post), you'll understand why local verities matter. He gathers wild seeds from tiny patches of natural prairie he finds locally, plants them on his farm, and then gathers the seeds from that and plants them elsewhere. As a result his prairie is truly natural Missouri prairie, surviving better, and out-competing the invasives better.

IMG_20161004_191330

Angie and I met a couple of Adam's other friends, and helped him harvest some seed.

IMG_20161004_193114

Adam also just happens to be an awesome guy, a botanist and a scientist at heart, so he was just a blast to hang out with. But I'm completely non-apologetic in my trying to suck every bit of knowledge I can out of his brain while with him. We need more people doing this sort of thing.

IMG_20161004_193303

The main lesson I've learned from talking to him though is that there is no magic bullet for re-establishing ecologies. What people wanted at that gathering was a quick answer, a solution. There isn't one that would fit in a talk. When I asked Adam how he figured out what to do, where he learned it, he said that he learned all the plants, and just started trying to do it. He watched the results and learned.

So, there are no true shortcuts... but maybe a few folks like Adam can be a bit of a shortcut for the rest of us. 

First Run: Non-plastic sleeping kit

Angie and I, at the suggestion of our friend, recently did a float down the Current River in the Ozarks. For the first time I had a fully non-plastic shelter and sleep system and was able to use it all together.

Here we are, chillin out.

IMG_4215


I've used each of these pieces alone, tested it, etc. But this was the first time it really started to come together. The gear shown here is a bit heavy for solo backpacking. I'm currently working on turning the ground-cloth in to a poncho. For solo backpacking my current plan is to use this 6x8 poncho/tarp as my shelter, and then use another smaller piece of treated fabric as a groundcloth.

This was a 3 day float trip, 2 nights, and it did rain one night. Everything worked great. We were quite comfy. Angie was using her more traditional (or is that less traditional? I'm not sure anymore) gear as you can see in the photo above.

IMG_4210

In other news, we had an AWESOME float trip, here's some other photos.

IMG_4219

Yes, we ARE in a cave while in a canoe! And yes, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds, well... maybe a bit more so, because it's also a spring and the water we were floating on was DELICIOUS!

IMG_4172 IMG_4169

We saw river otters, bald eagles, deer, and tons of king fishers.

IMG_4235

We're finding that we really like the Ozarks. 

2016-10-15

Fire safety and cotton backpacking gear

Most people are not aware, but most camping gear is required to be covered in fire retardants to be sold in most states in the U.S. This is also true of furniture and other things, but for this post I want to talk about camping gear.

If you weren't aware, back in the eighties a researcher discovered that the fire retardants in children's sleepware was carcinogenic... very carcinogenic. The fire retardants were banned a while later, but companies were still required to make all these products fire retardant. So, they changed the non-active portion of the chemical a tiny bit, so it counted as a different chemical, then that was banned, etc. This has been going on ever since with no meaningful change. So, in short, most things that are flame retardant are a problematic...

That was a bit off-topic, getting back to the point, I've been playing with all of this gear made from bed-sheets which I *believe* don't contain fire retardants, though I could be wrong.

I decided to run a quick test to see how paranoid I should be about accidentally lighting my gear on fire, so here we go:

This is 800 thread count egyption cotton which *probably* doesn't have flame retardant. One wastreated with bees-wax, mineral spirits, and a small amount of pure unboiled linseed oil, the other was just the raw material.

First I tried dropping a spark on to both materials, neither of which lit on fire. Here's the treated one afterwards.

IMG_20161014_120752

Next I got out a lighter and lit both of them, it took a few seconds actually. On the left  is the treated one, on the right is the untreated fabric.
I lit the matrial on the left first then a bit later the material on the right (it took me a couple tries).

IMG_20161014_121510
IMG_20161014_121519

So, contrary to what I've been hearing on the internet, this treatment *improves* the fire retardancy of the material... THAT is pretty interesting. The untreated cotton burned about twice as fast.

Next, just as an interesting cross-check I cut a patch (the inside of a pocket actually) off an old worn-out raincoat. This rain-coat is a fancy membrane style water-proof breathable jobby:

IMG_20161014_122020

This burned in (by my estimation) about half the time that the raw fabric burned, and lit more easily.

I was pretty surprised by these results, so thought I'd share them. I'm still going to be careful, but now I'm going to be less paranoid about non-flame-retardant treated cotton than I am about flame-retardant treated nylon.