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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Feeling Pretty Stupid.

Last weekend was the great Garage Clean-Out and this weekend has been the Bonzer Basement Purge.

As well as getting rid of things that are of little or no value I have been reorganizing the things that remain. The problem arises when I start getting rid of empty boxes. I often check them to make sure they're really empty before putting them in the recycling and that attention to detail has served me well.

The pain of getting rid of so much of my stuff will be worth it in the end when I have a Man Room in the basement where I can go to be with my guns, knives, axes, and other outdoorsy stuff.

Let's cut to the chase.

I managed to pick up TWO of Fallkniven's 3G F1s and one went straight into a sheath. The other one remained boxed up for future use. Yeah, it was in a box.

I just got rid of my last empty box.

I'm tired both physically and mentally.

Did I screw up? Have I tossed the box with the F1 still in it?

I sure can't find it now.

It'd be bad enough with the production F1 at around $100 but the 3G cost twice that. Ouch.

Two is one and one is none. That adage proved true today...


Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 27, 2009

Had an Idea

I emailed Spen of JRE Industries a few weeks ago about an idea I had and finally made the trip down on Wednesday to take the idea from concept to finished product. It's a VERY simple modification to one of my favorite bits of kit and it improves portability and security with minimal effort.

I've been carrying a Fallkniven DC4 in my pocket for some time now and I had almost convinced myself that the 4 was too big but the DC3 is a bit too small for the way I use the stone and I didn't really want to convert. Then it hit me.

If I dropped eyelets into the top of the DC4 sheath (one on each "lip") I could secure the stone with a piece of paracord or shock cord AND I could carry it on a carabiner clipped to my pack or my belt loop. The problem was that I had a DC4 and sheath but no eyelets. Spen has eyelets and a really nice press to put those eyelets in.

He suggested the S-biner from Nite-Ize as the clip and so far it's worked perfectly. Now I have the DC4 out of my pocket but still have it with me in case I need to sharpen my, or someone else's, knives. That may sound a bit strange but it has happened on more than one occasion.

JRE sells the DC3 and DC4 stones on their website and I'm encouraging Spen to offer the eyelets as an option for another couple of bucks as it really does improve the product without detracting from the current functionality.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Football, turkey, and family...

That's what's in store for us today.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Tough

It's tough when someone in your family doesn't quite "get it."

This morning I put out half of the contents of one garage bay for the garbage man. Sure, the stuff is garbage and I have a tendency to hoard things that aren't quite worn out but I had to get rid of some things that have uses above and beyond their intended scope.

A small mountain of worn out sanding belts were hanging off my work bench and they are now headed for the local landfill. My 220s were probably more like 4000s because most of the abrasive had worn off but I could still use them!

Don't worry, nothing of any real value has gone out. I did find myself explaining over and over why I needed to hang on to certain things but my wife and I are clearly not seeing eye to eye on this subject.

The good news is that I can now easily get to my workbench and tool box so there should be some more projects coming soon. Plus, now I can set up the video camera in the garage when I'm working and I'm not quite so embarrassed to leave the garage door up.

I also had an opportunity to reorganize the shelves once everything was removed. I had been storing my firestarting materials on the shelf UNDER the gas cans and various fuels. OOPS! Now things are as they should have been plus the fire extinguisher is hanging nearby now.

Before it would have taken Indiana Jones to find anything if I were absent and now ANYBODY can walk in and see how things are organized and should have a greater chance of finding what they are looking for. Up next, the basement...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hand Drill Fire

I'm going to make fire with the hand drill.

I was thinking last night about making a new bow drill set and then went down and dug out my hand drill set I made back at the Briar Patch Primitive Skills Course. I have a mullein spindle and a cedar hearth board.

I was so motivated that I started a new hole in the board last night. I carved the depression, started drilling, got smoke, and then carved in my notch. Then I went to town with the drill to see how far I could get considering that my hands had gone soft and my muscles were no longer used to the strain.

I got lots of smoke and fine dust but my arms wore out before I had taken it far enough to produce the ember.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Once I get it you can expect a series of pictures and a video. This is something I want to be able to show off at the drop of a hat.

I'm going to have a go at harvesting a couple of woody cattail stalks this weekend too as they should make acceptable hand drill spindles. They have many of the same qualities as the mullein spindle I'm currently using and it'd be nice to have a backup.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 20, 2009

Should Be Hunting

Today's the opener.

I'm not in the woods.

The flu from a few weeks ago really hosed up my open weekend because the things I missed had to be rescheduled for THIS weekend.

I am NOT pleasant company today.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ray Mears DVDs

I'm in the process of converting ALL of my Ray Mears DVDs and it's a long process.

I bought the DVDs from the Woodlore store several months ago and have watched them all repeatedly on my computer because the PAL format doesn't play in my NTSC player. Then, one day, I had a brilliant idea to convert the discs from PAL to NTSC using software on the computer so I could play them on the television.

This process is painful. I have a high-powered Mac and it still takes maybe eight hours to rip a DVD. Then I have to play around with the files to get them transferred to iDVD and create a menu so that I can select the show I want and that takes time. Then the program runs and does whatever it does to analyze the files and convert them to a recordable format.

As an example, I converted and burned Bushcraft Season 1 but it took me two days per disc (a total of four days for the first season.)

It was a painful process but watching Ray on the big television has been fantastic. Now the kids can sit on the couch with me and we can talk about what he's doing and why he's doing it. Jake can point out the bits of kit Ray is using and how they're just like what daddy uses.

It turns out that Ray shows many more skills in Extreme Survival though so that's next on the agenda...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reinventing the Wheel?

Sometimes I make life a little more difficult than it needs to be.

Take the constant drive for that next knife. You know, the one that's going to change everything. Yeah, that doesn't actually change everything but maybe changes a little and causes the cravings for something else...

I was sitting reading Sigurd Olson this morning and thinking about the classics versus the contemporaries. Why, if I am always grabbing either a Fallkniven F1 or Eriksson Mora 510, do I feel the urge to expand my knife collection further? If the Swedish Army Trangia does all I would want from a cookset/mess kit then why do I need the latest and greatest Titanium kit?

This doesn't happen to me across the board though. I bought my Wiggy's sleeping bags and that was it. The only other sleeping bags I've purchased were for the kids. Yes, Sarah has her own bag already. A Wiggy's bag, a wool blanket, and a ground pad are about all a guy could need for keeping warm.

I wish I had the answers. It'd sure be cheaper.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wood Smoke

I miss wood smoke. I think today may be the day to build a fire.

It wasn't that long ago we burned out that massive log but it seems like it's been too long. I miss that smell in my nostrils and my clothes don't have that outdoorsy smell to them any more.

The woods are being burned and I can smell the leaves and sticks burning but it's too far away. I need to BUILD a fire and sit near it soaking in its warmth and enjoying its light.

Hunting season is only two days away. Whether or not I make it is still up in the air. I've got commitments on both ends of the opening weekend so it's going to be a LONG couple of days if I can pull this off. The fire and smoke will help to cover my scent so tonight's fire will serve double duty.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 16, 2009

Scouts in the Woods

Yesterday the Tiger Scouts and their parents joined me in the woods for a hike.

We took a few minutes at the trail head discussing trail safety and each boy was assigned a Trail Buddy. Then I explained to them how, if separated from the group, the boys should just sit down and wait for us to come back for them. I assured the parents that I knew the woods backwards and forwards and could find their boys on the trail or off but it'd be easier for all of us if the pairs stayed together and didn't run off ahead or lag too far behind.

I handed out a couple of compasses to reinforce the lessons we covered on basic map and compass navigation and would randomly ask the boys to give me our bearing and to find North. We covered putting "red in the shed" to find North and how to read the bearings off the bezel. After everybody had taken a reading, I asked the boys to teach me how to do it and they did a great job.

On the hike we discussed what we were seeing and I tried to get the boys to start to see the unwritten stories. If we saw a pile of acorns we could work out the fact that there must be an oak nearby and something must have been chewing on those acorns. Following the trunk up into the branches, we looked for a squirrel nest. All that from some acorns on the ground.

I was really in my element and had a great deal of fun teaching these kids and their parents about the woods and the amazing resources we have right here in our back yard. Many families had never been there before despite the fact I could walk there in 20 minutes or so.

I hope they all walked away with some knowledge and that they had as much fun as I did.

I hope we can do it again soon.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 13, 2009

Let's Go Cheap!

I've talked about this many times in the past but let's go cheap and see what a little extra work and very little money can put together in terms of essential gear.

I'm just getting started with the collection and here's what I've got so far:

  1. 14" Tramontina machete $5.99

  2. Ericksson 510 $9.99

  3. Doan Magnesium Fire Starter $5.25

  4. 6' X 8' blue poly tarp $5.98

  5. 100' 550 cord $7.00

  6. Coffee can pot FREE

For less than $50 we've taken care of out cutting tools, fire, shelter, and food and water. There is some work that needs to be done to the gear to get it ready for the outdoors and extended use but we can use things we (hopefully) already have laying around like a file and some sandpaper.

The cutting tools need to be cleaned up and optimized for our use and the coffee can pot needs to be seasoned like cast iron to make it more resistant to rust and to get rid of any chemical "liners" that may have been put on the can.

Why did I go with the Doan firestarter when I like the LMF firesteels so much? Cost. They're not my favorite but they'll certainly get the job done.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where Is Roy Beers?

Come on, admit it, you've seen him on YouTube. He hasn't been seen in quite a while though.

Where is Roy Beers and what is he doing these days?

Help me find him.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day

This is the fourth year I've been able to write these words of gratitude for those of you who have served, do serve, and will serve.

Thank you.

For all you do, all you have given, and all you may be asked to give, you have my eternal respect and gratitude.

Those of you currently in harm's way, be safe and hurry home.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Making a Commitment

Today I'm making a commitment to you and to myself.

By the time this day is done I will be on the road to becoming the bowhunter I always wanted to be.

Compound or long or recurve? Release or finger-pull? High tech or old school? What's my draw length? What's my draw weight? Sit and wait or stalk? In the air or on the ground?

I don't know.

I hope to know by tomorrow morning.

Sarah and I are taking a field trip today.

Thanks for reading,


EDIT: It is NOT going to be today after all. I had made a prior commitment to stick around the house to await an important package and that day just happens to be today. BUMMER!

I'll have to see if I can make it up there later this week.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Beautiful Day Outdoors

I took Jake into the woods yesterday to scout a hike we'll be taking with the Cub Scouts a week from now. I know the area very, very well but needed to know if 6 and 7 year old legs were up to the hike in and out with activities thrown in along the way.

I thought we'd march in, march out, maybe enjoy some hot chocolate, and be on our way but Jake had other plans. I advised him to grab a piece of his Halloween candy since he still had so much left and he took it a step further and loaded up his Camelbak Mini Mule which already contained his survival kit and some Clif Bars. He got his bladder out of the freezer, filled it up with water, and asked me to load it into the pack. He also filled the small pocket with plenty of sugary "rations" from his bag of goodies.

Taking a cue from the new boss, I loaded up my pack with a poncho and liner, cookset, first aid kit, knife and saw, firestarting gear, and all the other necessary gear for a day out in the woods.

We dressed too warm for the weather and sweatshirts quickly went into the pack as soon as we hit the trailhead.

Despite the pictures, the woods were anything but abandoned. As a matter of fact, I was constantly having to restage the pictures of a special prototype Spen dropped off on Saturday (oops, did I say too much) to move out of the way or to get better light. Lots of landscape shots came out just the same--tons of leaf litter and lots of bare trunks.

We saw a couple of does running through the woods and they crossed our path maybe 30 yards down the trail not once but twice. At first I thought they'd been spooked by the hikers but cutting back across the trail like they did made me wonder if they weren't just playing some kind of game.

Jake ate plenty of his candy, we didn't need the hot chocolate, and we covered lots of ground and drank lots of water. We sat on a bench near the river and enjoyed the day--until Jake was ready to move again and then he was off before I was ready and I had to chase him down the path.

I think I needed the day out after being sick for the past few days. I'm glad I got to spend it with one of my good hiking buddies.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Art of Campfire Cooking

I really enjoy this video every time I see it. I hope you get as much out of it as I do.

This is Australian pavement artist Peter Voice according to the YouTube description. I'll have to see what else he's done.

Looks good enough to eat doesn't it? :)

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 06, 2009

Flu Updates

Thanks to all of you who have contacted me with your positive thoughts and helpful comments.

As of today, Sarah is about 95% (still a bit of a runny nose,) and Jake seems to be over the flu all together. I, on the other hand, am quickly moving down the road to H1N1 apparently. I have the cough and the post nasal drip that are common symptoms.

I've had a nice long talk with my doctor and he's not treating any but the highest risk patients (asthmatics, babies, pregnant women, and folks with immunodeficiency) and the rest of us will just have to suffer through the symptoms. That's precisely what I expected and what I'm prepared to do.

One thing I found very interesting in my discussion was the fact that a positive test for the flu IS currently a positive test for H1N1 because, apparently, it is the only strain currently going around.

I'll continue to push fluids, hit the Vitamin C, garlic, and echinacea, and try to get some rest. The hand washing is something I have always felt I did well (you wash your hands for a full 20 seconds right?) but clearly I'm still falling short somewhere...

Anyway, just thought some of you would be interested enough to write about it. :)

Thanks for reading,


What I Want

Have you ever been dissatisfied with what you had even though what you had was more than adequate for your needs? This could relate to so many areas of our lives but on this day and at this time I'm talking about cutlery.

I have so many knives. So many that are similar--a size and shape that has been determined by lots of use and personal preference and experience. The 4-5" blade, the similar sized handle, the sub .25" thickness, the materials in the blade and handle, and the slightly dropped point are all things I could show you 20 different ways by 20 different makers at the drop of the hat.

The Fallkniven F1, a knife I have in multiples both custom and production, may be my ideal knife. I have sheaths by MBHanzo, Survival Sheath Systems, and JRE Industries. The knives and sheaths are all so well constructed and designed that they'll last for my lifetime plus some. They've been proven in the field in all kinds of weather and conditions.

Why, then, do I have a yearning for something else?

I like big knives. Not THICK knives necessarily, but the bigger the better. Machetes, goloks, parangs, and the like are right up my alley. The Newt Livesay version of the RTAK may be the ultimate utility large blade and, at 3/16" thick, just about the maximum thickness I really like to use. I have Busses that are 5/16" thick (or more) and they're so heavy and thick that the cutting efficiency is hurt. You'd have to bring along the Incredible Hulk to swing it for very long. There's something about them though...

That's not what I want though.

What I really want, today, is a nice bowie. Something not more than 3/16" thick with a blade between 6 and 9" and a handle that's comfortable. Something somewhat rustic would really appeal to me. Maybe with an aged sheath with some fringe and a concho and a Sam Brown stud to slip it inside my belt.

I'm sure as the day progresses my mind will move on to something else and the desire for something I don't have will be replaced by something else that's equally impractical. Maybe a new cookset...

That's right, this isn't limited to cutlery. It could be shelter, clothing, cooksets, my hunting rifle, or any of a dozen other categories...

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Starbucks' Via

Is this going to change the way I drink coffee in the woods?

I've heard lots of very good things about Starbucks' new Via instant coffee mix and had an opportunity to purchase some yesterday for the very first time. I came home with a box of Columbian Roast packets and will give them a try today.

I'm a bit of a coffee snob and don't, in general, like Starbucks coffee or instant coffee but in the woods I don't have the time or energy to roast beans, grind them, and make cowboy coffee all the time. It's been Folger's packets for the past couple of years when I want a fast and mediocre cup of coffee.

There's been an awful lot of energy expended lately on food and drink for the woods so I hope this one pans out as a success.

I'll let you know once I've "brewed" my first cup.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Swine Flu

We've got it.

Sarah tested positive yesterday after waking up with a fever. Jake's been sick with a high fever since Sunday and, while testing negative, the doctor told me the test has a high percentage of false negatives and he's clearly got the symptoms.

The baby gets Tamiflu two times a day. Jake gets to tough it out. He's not in a high-risk category and I'll be keeping a close eye on him to make sure he doesn't get any worse.

While the test doesn't confirm the strain of flu, the pediatrician is treating both cases as swine flu (H1N1) to be safe.

Some might panic at the news. I'm not worried. We've had sick kids before. We'll have sick kids again. Fluids followed by more fluids is the order of the day. If the situation deteriorates then we'll seek additional medical assistance.

Laura, my wife, and I have all managed to avoid it thus far. We're now taking bets on how long each of us lasts. Who's running the pool? If I make it free and clear to the end of the week I'll have successfully avoided it (I hope.)

Exciting times...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kitchen Knives

I had the brilliant idea last night to put some of my woods knives to use in the kitchen since I'm not getting much time in the woods. With two sick kids, homemade chicken soup seemed like the best option and I just happened to have the necessary ingredients in the pantry and refrigerator. Carrots, celery, and onion (mirepoix) are the base for lots of recipes so I keep those ingredients on hand all the time.

I used the F1 to peel the carrots and cut off the ends, trim the celery, and cut the ends and peel the skin of the onion. It's a bit thick to do the slicing but the razor sharp edge really excels at basic cutting tasks. The Spyderco Swick did a fantastic job of slicing the carrots and celery. It had a bit of difficulty with the onion due to the blade length but that was a problem easily overcome.

The chicken was seasoned with salt and pepper and then a light coat of olive oil was applied. While I was prepping the chicken I was pre-heating the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. I used the F1 to trim off excess fat and connective tissue from the chicken breasts prior to seasoning. Once the breasts were nicely browned on the front side I flipped them for just a minute or two (long enough to seal in the juices) and then pulled them from the pan and allowed them to rest momentarily. I added the carrots, celery, and onion along with a bit of sliced garlic into the hot pan and let everything caramelize. Then I gave the mirepoix a good stir and added the chicken breasts back onto the top and tossed the skillet into a 400° oven for 10 minutes.

Once everything was cooked through, the chicken breasts were shredded, the stock was warmed, and the noodles were par-boiled (mostly cooked) and kept warm. Assembly of the soup is as follows:

1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil for 2 minutes.
2. Add the mirepoix and reduce heat to a simmer.
3. Add noodles and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add chicken and remove from heat.
5. Sprinkle soup with chopped tarragon and parsley.
6. Serve with a half lemon or squeeze prior to serving.
7. Eat.

Simple and good.

The Swick did a great job with the slicing duties, the F1 was used for peeling and also on the cooked chicken prior to shredding, and both did very well at their assigned tasks. I would normally use an 8" chef and a paring knife to do all the prep work so using two knives is pretty normal for me.

Thanks for reading,