American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Today's the Day

Well, another sleepless night and another round of middle of the night packing...

The movers will be here momentarily and we'll get this circus started.

I'm anxious, excited, tired, happy, and sad all at the same time. We're saying farewell to the river and hello to the woodland.

I hope the Internet connection works okay at the new place so I can get back to the updates.

See you from a new location soon.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, October 29, 2007

Can't Sleep

There's too much to get done between now and Tuesday morning.

I can't sleep.

I woke up around 2am unable to stop thinking about what still needed to get done so I got up and went to work.

I did make a lot of headway in the past hour so maybe I'll brew up a cup of tea and try to get some more sleep before the day kicks off at full-tilt in another couple of hours.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, October 28, 2007

First Frost

We got our first frost last night.

So long mosquitoes. See you next year.

The mornings are getting colder and the days are staying around the 50-degree mark. Time to break out the Swanndri and replace the shorts with jeans.

It's back to playing with fire on a fairly regular basis too just to keep my skills sharp. While fire's got a great psychological impact in the warmer months it's far more vital in colder weather.

I've been chilled to the bone before. I don't need to do that again.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 25, 2007


We're moving next Tuesday.

Between running errands, shuttling the kids to school and activities, and getting everything moved to the new address (i.e. magazines, phone, cable, etc.) I am finding little time to get into the woods.

We've streamlined nearly every part of the household but somehow I've managed to hang on to most of my outdoor gear. I've talked in the past of getting rid of part (or most) of the things but have put it off over and over as I've got some hoarding tendencies.

Once we're in the new place I will be spending some time in the woods right out the back door (yes, moving from the river to the woodland) and I'll get some of this stuff out there and into your hands.

Plus there's deer season coming up, the upland bird trip coming up, Thanksgiving coming up...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Woods Brew

I'm officially trying to get into brewing tea both at home and in the woods.

It's been a long road so far and it's only been a week or so. I'm trying to learn what I do and don't like and have had a few absolutely horrid cups and a few darned good ones.

Today I found a new kind of tea. It comes from a company called Numi and isn't from the traditional tea plant Camellia Sinensis but from the Honeybush. They call it "Bushmen's Brew" and after I saw that I just had to buy it and give it a try.

It's good. I can certainly see why they'd call it Honeybush as the honey overtones are quite obvious. This is a dramatic improvment over that cup of Lapsang Souchong I had earlier this week.

I'm still so new to the whole concept that I can't tell you much about this tea versus the others but I know that my favorite far and away is still spruce tea followed by Rooibos and then this Honeybush--none of which are actually tea I just noticed...

Hmm...that's interesting.

I hope some of you can educate me further in the art and science of brewing up a cup in the woods.

Thanks for reading,


Happy Birthday George!

Today is George's birthday. You've all heard of George from my numerous posts about Briar Patch Outdoors.

Hey George, I hope you've got some fun stuff planned for today. Have a great birthday.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Hybrid Lean-To/A-frame

This is a tarp shelter I've been playing around with for a couple of years and really find it to be a fantastic choice when in the woods as it provides a great deal of shelter and security while providing a 270-degree view.

I'm using a blue poly tarp that is approximately 8.5 feet by 11.5 feet and I turn the bottom third of the tarp into my groundsheet, stake out those four corners, bring the middle section back up as a lean-to, tie off the grommets to a couple of trees using slippery tautline hitches, and then bring the top corners forward and down and stake them down with a simple clove hitch around a tent peg.

I've got my bedroll inside along with my newest wool blanket and find it to be incredibly comfortable, plenty warm, and nice and dry. Plus, in a bad storm I could stake the flap down lower and closer to provide more protection from blowing rain or snow from the front. I could, of course, also stake it out to a couple of hiking poles, sticks, or trees and have a nice awning.

I can cook under this configuration using a stove, I might be able to have a very small fire, and I can stow my gear where it'll stay nice and dry.

I could also tie a ridgeline inside the peak for hanging gear if I felt the need but I just throw my headlamp, water bottle, etc. in the little corner behind my bedroll and it's ready to grab should I need it during the night.

One trick I learned yesterday involves pitching this configuration with a structural ridgeline. You can attach the grommets to the ridgeline using zipties and then you give the shelter its shape when you stake out the tent pegs. This allows you to keep the ridgeline attached to the tarp for quick pitching the next time you're out. I'm not sure this shelter would really benefit from a structural ridgeline but still want to pass this information along.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Firesteel Challenge

Laura and I set up a bit of a challenge today so she could take some time to familiarize herself with the various firestarters/firesteels to pick which one worked the best for her and which she liked best.

The contenders:

  • Light My Fire Army Firesteel

  • Ultimate Survival, Inc. BlastMatch

  • Ultimate Survival, Inc. StrikeForce

The strikers:

  • Integral Ultimate Survival, Inc. BlastMatch striker

  • Integral Ultimate Survival, Inc. StrikeForce striker

  • Victorinox SwissTool saw back

The tinder:

  • Fatwood scrapings

  • Fatwood shavings

  • Dried leaves

There are certain problems created by six-year-old hands which are not faced by older, stronger hands. Laura had a hard time pressing the tab on the BlastMatch hard enough to generate sparks and found the shape of the StrikeForce caused her to drive her knuckles into the pavement. This, of course, forced her to raise up the firesteel and the striker preventing proper placement of the sparks into the tinder.

The back of the SwissTool saw throws more and better sparks than any other striker I've ever tried and Laura found that once the angle was discovered it would reliably throw big sparks with any of the firesteels. I've already mentioned the problems encountered with the other strikers.

Scraped fatwood (scraped using the back of the SwissTool saw) provided us with the fluffiest curls of tinder which easily caught with the sparks generated using any of the firesteels above. I found the saw a bit whippy while trying to push it against the fatwood but pulling with the saw back nearer the pivot solved that problem. Laura liked the little wisps of fatwood that clung to my hands, legs, and the firesteel and kept commenting that I'd need to move quickly once the fire was going or else I'd burn some parts that I didn't really want burned. Kids...

The winning combination:

  • Ultimate Survival, Inc. BlastMatch

  • Victorinox SwissTool saw back

  • Fatwood scrapings

Other combinations worked fine and with some modification the BlastMatch would have been Laura's singular choice for firestarting but it would have required a ziptie to hold down the tab a little better. We're going to try this modification and see if it's as effective as I suspect. If it is, I can assure you there'll be another firebug in our house.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, October 19, 2007

BriteLyt Stove

I don't need another stove. I don't need another stove.

This beautiful brass thing is the BriteLyt stove and it's available here in a polished nickel, matte nickel, and brass finish. It burns any fuel and here's an instructional video on YouTube for the Methanol/Ethanol Stove:

It's bigger than the stoves I tend to carry in the woods but, for car camping, it looks near ideal. Plus, it's got a real rugged beauty to it.

I don't have much more to go on so if any of you have one (or experience with one) I'd love to hear it. Tell me why I do/don't need another stove.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Best Gear Test

The best way to know whether or not your gear is going to perform when you need it is to get out there and use it.

There are many new pieces of gear come out every year and they all seem to offer some new feature that last year's "new" gadget was missing--usually at some price markup.

Some of us are compelled to rush out and get our hands on the newest, lightest, or toughest new bits and bobs despite the fact that we've got a bin full of last year's models at home. This is something I keep trying to avoid, successfully in recent months, but it has to remain at the front of my mind.

The best testing can be done by simply loading up your pack and heading to the woods for an hour, a day trip, an overnight, or even a whole weekend. You'll have a good idea by the time you come back of what works and what doesn't.

If it works well you can stop looking at newer alternatives and focus your gear lust on something you don't already have. If it doesn't, good news, you can get back to looking for something that will work. Figure out what doesn't work for you and use that as your basis for future purchases. Is it too heavy? Does it not have enough options? Is it too boring? Does it work in extreme temperatures?

I think I'm going to get out there this weekend and shake down my kit a bit. If only I had that new tarp with all the extra tieouts...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dark Hunter: Part II

Back in August I wrote this post about the Robert Dark Hunter I had received.

Now that I've had an ample opportunity to use this knife I can say that I'm very happy with the purchase. The knife maintains a heck of an edge for a long time and today was the first time I had to touch it up in all that time.

You can see that the knife takes a nice patina and this one looks quite a bit more "experienced" than it did back in August.

The blade tapers nicely from guard to tip and that makes a light knife that is quick in the hand and yet sturdy enough to handle the toughest jobs I throw at it.

Robert has posted some "Worker Bee" knives over at Bladeforums in the past and I was sorely tempted to add another Dark Knife to my collection as they're quite a value for such a hard-working knife. He's got a gallery posted on his website here:
Dark Knives

Give him a look.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, October 15, 2007


There have always been lots of funny videos on YouTube and I find myself looking for interesting and relevant videos on a daily basis. Here are some of the searches I've done sorted by date:


Here's a firesteel video I really enjoyed and then went looking for more of Doc's videos:

Every once in a while a Ray Mears video will show up for a day or so until it is removed.

Pablo has got quite a few videos over there now too.

Great stuff!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hobo Stove

Here's a rainy-day project that takes very little in the way of time, money, or materials and provides you with an extremely handy bit of gear that will last you for a very long time even if you use it.

I read about this particular hobo stove in Backwoodsman Magazine several months ago and had to give it a try. I was a bit surprised to see just how much light and heat it generated after getting it lit--an exercise the first time.

Here's what you'll need:

  • An empty can

  • A piece of cardboard

  • Some candle nubs or squares of paraffin

You should also have a double boiler or some other means of melting the wax/paraffin away from a direct flame.

And here's how you put one of these together:

  1. Begin melting your wax/paraffin in a double boiler, on a hot plate, or in a can immersed in a pot of hot water

  2. Make sure the inside of your can is nice and clean

  3. Cut the cardboard (perpendicular to the corrugation so you have "tubes" coming from top to bottom) to just tall enough to fit inside the lip of the can and just long enough for the two ends to butt up against one another inside the can

  4. Once the wax/paraffin is melted you can assemble the stove

  5. Put the cardboard in first

  6. Pour the wax/paraffin into the middle of the can. It will saturate the cardboard and begin to wick up the "tubes."

  7. Don't fill it to the top. The wax/paraffin will cool and contract a bit but if you cover the tops of the "tubes" you may have a much harder time getting this stove going.

  8. Once cooled, you can add a bit more paraffin/wax if you'd like but you've got a nice weatherproof little stove/lantern that will provide you with hours and hours of light and heat that was built from scraps you probably had laying around the house.

Now, a couple of caveats:

  1. Anytime you're working with open flames please BE CAREFUL! Don't burn the house down.

  2. Remember, paraffin IS flammable so handle with care.

  3. This stove should be placed on a secure surface as it will be full of melted wax/paraffin after burning for a while.

  4. Lastly, I've noticed a bit of a smell when burning pure paraffin so if that smell offends you may want to try using unscented candles as the source of your wax.

The first time I lit this stove it took a bit of effort to get going. I believe it burns some of the paraffin vapor so it took some heat to get enough melted paraffin to get the flame going all the way around the cardboard. Once it got going, however, it was easy to relight. The neatest part of this project is that you can refill the stove with more wax/paraffin once it burns down a bit. I'm trying to rig up a pot stand that will allow me to use this as a heat source for cooking in addition to providing me with warmth and light.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gear-Related Memories

Does your gear bring back memories of people, places, and things when you use it?

I pulled out my newest wool blankets last night and, as I aired them out, I was reminded of George and Kerri Hedgepeth because they were the folks who not only told me about the quality and value but because they were there during the entire time I first used those blankets to pad the ground and keep me warm.

This wasn't a, "Huh, remember George and Kerri?" type of memory. It was a flood of sights, sounds, and experiences so strong that I immediately called George on his cell so I could tell him. I got the latest information on Briar Patch's schedule for the coming year which hasn't even been posted yet.

It's this flood of memories which makes it so difficult for me to part with my gear. A Swedish Army Trangia isn't just a mess kit/cookset any more. It's a constant reminder of my first outing into the woods. It brings back thoughts of the many times it put warm food into my frozen body while I was out in some of the nastiest weather you could imagine.

Thinking about the list of gear that provides me with such strong feelings I see a very International representation:

  • The Trangia from Sweden

  • Swanndri from New Zealand

  • wool blankets from Germany

  • basha from Great Britain

  • Arborwear shirts from the US

I'm sure the list could go on and on but these are just a few examples to give you some idea.

I hope you have a chance to get out there and create some gear related memories of your own.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pup's Got more Doziers

This time Pup's got in a shipment of knives from Bob Dozier in S30V!!!

Check 'em out here!


Monday, October 08, 2007

Go Barefoot?

Barefooting anyone?

I found this online book today while looking for something completely different and thought it was interesting considering the amount of trouble I've had with my feet over the years when my waterproof boots get soaked inside and the jungle foot sets in.

Might be something worth considering...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Heat Wave!

It's been darned hot. We've been in the upper 80s for more than a week and, frankly, it's getting a little old.

The Weather Channel predicts thunderstorms for "tomorrow" and have done so for a week now. Once the rain comes the temperatures are going to break hard. We're talking a change of daytime highs near 90 to daytime highs right around 50.

This morning was spent riding bikes with Laura, heading over to Mary's to drop off her tent and to see the kitties, and then the remainder of the day was spent playing with the hammock/tarp setup and I got a fire going with my firesteel and a small pile of nice dry leaves.

Yeah, it was 90 degrees and I built a fire...

It was great to burn off some of the scrub that's been clogging up the back yard all summer and to take care of the blowdown from a big wind storm that blew through here about 10 days ago. The smoke also drove the mosquitoes crazy and it was nice to finally spend some time down by the river and not have to worry about West Nile.

I'd say this day turned out alright after all...

Thanks for reading,


Friday, October 05, 2007

Tree Identification: Honey Locust

The honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) tree has a rather unmistakeable trunk which is absolutely covered in clumps of long thorns.

The locusts are members of the pea family and produce a pod similar in appearance to a peapod but longer and brown. It is the sweet legume pulp which gives the tree the "honey" moniker. The legumes and pods are used to feed cattle and pigs in some areas.

Whenver I find a honey locust tree I harvest a couple of the thorns for use in fishing spears, traps, or other holding devices. They're easy enough to harvest, taking a couple will do no harm to the tree, and they're plenty strong to use both green and dry. I have even used a honey locust thorn to repair a tear in one of my shirts--they make excellent needles.

More information here

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Vitamin B1 to Deter Mosquitoes?

I've been taking Vitamin B1 supplements since two weeks before the Primitive Skills class as instructed to create an "internal protection" against mosquitoes. Once the class was over I've let the daily regimen slip a bit as I had mixed results while following the routine closely.

I was taking 50mg three times a day and have since upped the dosage to 100mg. Whether or not that was enough to offer me protection is still unclear. It seemed like I got bitten less but I don't really have a control group to verify that.

What I do know is that the bites I have gotten seem to itch less when I take B1. Apparently the plantain (Plantago major) is also high in Vitamin B1 and is what I've used ever since the Primitive Skills class to handle mosquito bites and the occasional bee sting.

Is there some correlation here? I don't know.

It seems to be working for me, isn't terribly expensive, keeps me DEET free, and the B1 is water soluable so I get rid of any excess every time I go to the bathroom.

I'll have to do some more extensive testing next summer as the season for the mossies is nearly up and then I'll stop taking B1 altogether.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, October 01, 2007

Hammockin' Again

Back into the hammock I go.

I pulled out my pack yesterday and attempted to put up a shelter with components I had packed and managed to get the hammock and tarp up with little difficulty. I had to use two sticks for tieout pegs as I hadn't packed any and the hardest part of the exercise was untying knots that I'd tied previously.

I needed a taut line hitch and I had a piece of cordage set up as a prussik with a fisherman's knot in the ends. Those knots, once loaded, become quite difficult to untie and I managed to smack myself on the wrist with a baton yesterday which compounded the difficulty as I hit right on the head of a nerve and still have the pins and needles feeling in my left hand.

Despite the few hurdles I had to deal with the hammock and tarp survived last night's thunderstorm just fine. I had to tighten everything this morning as the moisture in the air caused the nylon to stretch but the proper knots give me plenty of wiggle room for adjustment down the road.

I keep toying with the idea of putting a couple of bungees in my pack but cordage and some basic knot knowledge seem to trump the extra bit of gear every time.

Thanks for reading,