Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Steve Bodio's Eternity Of Eagles: Background

Sometimes we must make concessions to modernity 

For anyone who's already interested in Steve Bodio's An Eternity Of Eagles. Living On Earth has an interview which you can listen to HERE or read HERE

I've been way busy: so not much to report, lots of new blog stuff on the horizon, and some neat new kit to review. In sad news for kit-Tarts everywhere: horror of horrors, due to a strict one-in-one-out policy, I have to chop-in one of my packs in the 80l class to make way for a new arrival. Dreading it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Halal Slaughter: Questions And Controversies

While out on the town drinking a few nights back I met up with [Lunches With Sharks -you'll meet him later] and a group of his friends I was introduced by LWS  as 'The Hunter'.  I'm accustomed to getting a broadly interested and positive response to being introduced like this. For the most part North london's 40-something dads are in favor of hunting for the pot, and reluctantly approving of pest control. For starters we chatted about hunting in the UK, the number of Deer there are these days, Fox predation, the Badger controversy, all the usual stuff. But where's the fun in that?  Without exposure to new and sometimes surprising ideas there is no learning, no expansion of my worldview. I like the slightly troubling thoughts that take our knowledge in new and sometimes surprising directions, and I like to test them out on other people, hopefully clever people. With that in mind whilst out on the town I've told this story a few times, and the faces people pulled tell me this one is perhaps, not for the hard-of-thinking.

If you've read a bit of this blog you'll already know that my preferred outcome for my dinner is that the animal was just mooching along, minding its own business, when out of nowhere an arrow or bullet severed a major artery and the animal was already dead when the bang or twang reached its ears. For me there is no better way for the animal to meet its end. The way for most food animals in the western world is, er, slightly different. It's entirely acceptable to have the animal severely traumatised, then stunned, before being skinned alive-ish. There is little time for compassion in industrialised animal husbandry. There is another method, one that people have heard of, disapprove of, yet seem to know little about. The intersection between wilful ignorance and distain has proved to be an interesting hunting ground in the past, so I thought I'd shine a flashlight into the chasm of my own ignorance and learn a little more about how other cultures relate to their food. Starting with Islam.

When you ask the average English or American person about the practice of Halal slaughter, they start pulling faces, and words like 'barbaric', and 'sickening' are used. The speaker is seldom able to describe exactly what they are objecting to, just the feelings the very word 'Halal' evokes. Occasionally you meet someone who'll tell you "they just slit the animals throats"this statement is accompanied by a look of distaste. Hmmm anyone for wilful ignorance with a side order of distain? I dont know about you but that just about makes me drool with curiosity. We have found the edge of the map. I have to know more.

Here's a video made by some chaps who are adherents to the Muslim faith, demonstrating their slaughter practice, and giving their explanation of the effects that they believe make up the process. It's not particularly graphic, part one of the video deals with the method of submission so no blood is spilled.

What interests me about the practice we're shown is the neurological effects, and particularly the resonance between the slaughtered and the slaughter-man. The practice of keeping the animals together as much as possible makes a lot of sense. As a herding animal the goat will obviously be much more relaxed when in a herd setting - where many eyes and ears can keep a look out. Separated from the herd, the animal wants to rejoin the group as soon as possible, going into distress until its reunited.
The slaughter man we see obviously takes his responsibly to the animal seriously, he seems un-hurried and benign towards the animals, there's no beating and shouting. As he intones the words of his religious conviction he seems lost in a revery, which then seems to affect the goat, it calms right down.
Its as though once disorientated by being tipped onto its back, and having it's head pushed back, the goat takes its que from the slaughter man who is exhibiting great calmness. As he covers its eyes, and strokes it the goat really does look so relaxed that it could doze off at any moment.

"these animals are Bilingual they always know the name when its mentioned no matter what language and they always feel the heart of that slaughterer if he belives in that word or he dosent"

The first part I'm not yet convinced by, but the second part is looking at least plausible. Most people who hunt will tell you that they believe animals have a sense of our intention, go out without a gun the place teams with game, the same walk with a gun nothing about, a common theme in stories from woodland stalkers is 'I was watching the deer from a hidden place, when a dog walker yapping on the phone wearing a fluro cagoule walked into the scene and the deer ignored them'. Just as many hunters report having a sense of there being hunt-able species in the area, it would seem animals have a sense of there being predators in the area. If this is true (its at least anecdotally true) the slaughter man has obscured his intention by going into his revery.

Lets turn this on its head for a moment; if he's made loads of threatening noises, banged a stick on the ground in between whacking at the animals with it, the separated the animal from its heard before of and ministering more of the same. He would have pushed all the buttons that tell the animal to be hyper alert. Instead by pushing the other set of buttons: he's basically hypnotised the goat.

How would you like your dinner to die? Is this what you were expecting? What other traditions do you think I should be investigating? I welcome your thoughts and comments: have at it.

More of the usual nonsense soon enough, thanks for reading

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Book Review: Steve Bodio's An Eternity of Eagles

A while back I reviewed Stephen Bodio's haunting eulogy to Betsy Huntingdon and pion to New Mexico 'Querencia'. HERE. So I was delighted when a very nice lady wrote to me to say that I was on the review list for Steve's latest work 'An Eternity of Eagles' .

I first came across SB a few years ago when he started to comment on some other blogs, I started to read his blog, and in conversation another blogger (who I had just complemented on his writing) said
"but we all wish we could write like Steve B". As Steve's blog was largely notes to friends and in-jokes I searched for some more of his writing, found this piece about a trip to the Steppes to hunt with Egales and Kazakh tribesmen, and was hooked. Steve's other works have included highly rated studies of fine shotguns, Pigeons and Long Dogs.

The 'An Eternity of Eagles' is quite different to the works I've read so far, it could be thought of as a tour not of some far-flung lands but of a library collected during many many years as a student of Falconry.  It lands pretty squarely between scholarly tome and coffe table book, and is none the worse for doing so. For the casual reader there is a touch more detail than they might be expecting and for the budding Raptor obsessive a tantalising glimpse of where future reading could take you.

“There is so much brute wisdom, sophisticated science, blood magic, and flat out terrific prose in Stephen Bodio’s writing that he makes me think of Merlin, educating Arthur by turning him into other animals for a while. An Eternity of Eagles is worthy of its great subject, which is not only eagles but the earthbound mortals who marvel at them.”
—Jonathan Rosen, author of The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature

I was going to type up a few choice examples from the book; or try to give you a compressed version of the chronology of our ancient relationship with these fascinating birds, the evolution of the practices of training and hunting with them, and their roles as totems in so many disparate cultures. But instead I'll make you this offer. Buy the book, if you've read it and dont like it, I'll buy your copy off you and give it to someone who will appreciate it.

More Soon

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Deer Crossing Donna

The Deer Crossing Warning sign (W11-3) is used to alert motorists in advance of locations where unexpected entries into the roadway by deer might occur. Size is 24" diamond shape and easily read by deer and motorists alike
A couple of posts ago I asked Deer Collision What Next? Prevention is better than cure right?

The LSP has found a woman on the internet who has all the experience and commonsense required to stop this from happening to other people

Donna has been in three separate accidents involving Deer, she feels its irresponsible to put the signs up on the highway or the interstate. She would like to see the signs moved, so the Deer 'know where to cross'

No one seems to be listening to her. I feel her frustration.


Crazy is as crazy does
Your pal

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Fallkniven F1 v's Fallkniven TK6

I've had an F1 for a long time, as you can see I've used it, abused it and anticipate continuing to use it in the style to which its become accustomed for many years. The TK6 hit the door mat a few months back [read the unboxing review HERE] and I thought you might like to hear a bit about the differences.

I bought my F1 both in the states; and a while back, so it was a serious bargain - the knife I chose it against was a Gerber LMF which has also gone up in price over the last few years and now looks like very poor value for money. Whereas the F1 is still at least two or three lifetimes worth of knife.

The TK6 on the other hand is pretty much the same price as it was when it first came out. Not cheap, but with a few notable exceptions, quality seldom is. By staying the same price while other knives have gotten more expensive, in real terms the TK6 has actually gotten cheaper [you can tell yourself].

The F1 is a survival knife: so its for making firewood and shelters

The TK6 is a hunting knife: so its for dismembering beasts and cutting up snack foods.

Both knives are designed in Sweden by Fallkniven and made in Seki City Japan. When the F1 came out VG10 was a rare 'super steel' it's still super [and it's still steel - ber boom] but now you can buy a VG10 knife for $40, and there are other makers also offering laminated VG10 blades, so the rarity has died off a bit. VG10 is a fantastic steel for edge retention - I once gutted, skinned, and butchered a Fallow doe with a Spyderco Urban without needing to refresh the edge, that's a steel that holds an edge. At 59 HRC its a hard blade, the edge is more resistant to folding over, but obviously hardness is often accompanied by brittleness - I've chipped the tip of my F1 more than once, the first time splitting a stick and the second time dropped point first onto a granite worktop - although here the F1 beats any non laminated blade as the lamination takes care of any concerns about cracking or bending; I've prised floor boards up with mine and hit it with a brick hammer, it's still rocking on. You can see Fallkniven's testing HERE. And my reviews of the F1 HERE and of Fallkniven's sharpening service HERE. After a few years of using the F1 I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one.

The TK6 is a different beast; a shorter blade in the drop point style, made with a blade of '3G' (which is  Fallkniven's proprietary name for a lamination of  VG2-SGPS-VG2 steels) that is first hard to blunt and then hard to sharpen. At 62 HRC, SGPS is a very hard steel. So much so, that for me at least, Diamond Stones are a must. I've long wanted the TK6 as the next step in the search for my 'little-big-knife' a sort of field-scalpel on steroids. I love it, the blade shape works, there is just-enough handle, and the edge holding is other worldly.

Fat blades are not 'slicers' and never will be, so I wouldn't class either as being a very good kitchen knife, the TK6 being much better as the blade feels narrower. The F1's massive strength comes at the cost of always feeling a bit 'fat in the cut' whereas the TK6 feels a lot thinner. With the absence of any nearby Deer Stalking opportunities, when The Lighthouse Keeper and myself Fished the Usk, I prepared two Squirrels and skinned a road kill Pine Marten, here the TK6 really found its niche, its the most convient skinning knife/field scalpel I've found yet: Superb!

Enough blade length to prise away hide, but still short enough for a tip-protected cut when first opening the animal up. So no need for one of those silly "look at me I'm a hunter" gut-hooks.

I know I'm a Fallkniven fanboy so in the interests of fairness I have to have a bit of a moan about the fit of the TK6's handle, neither design has the casting quite right but somehow I'm more inclined to give the rough and ready F1 a pass and say that as part of the premium Tripple Krona range the fit on the TK6 is a bit of a let down. This isn't such a big deal for me as it's always been my intention to customise a TK6, it has the steel and blade shape I want, and some of the other features I'm going for aren't available off the shelf. If you were set on keeping the factory handle a bit of work with a scalpel and some sandpaper would sort it out, but you should bear that in mind before you order one. That being said, I seriously love mine, it's a lot of that perfect knife I've been looking for.

"There is no 'perfect' knife but you'll have fun looking for it" SBW

"There's no bore like a knife bore" Raymond Mears

The custom project, some huntin' with raptors, and air rifles, some stalking, and of course more kit reviews on the way.
Your pal

Eddie Huang: The New Anthony Bourdain?

From the ever brilliant VBS Chef and writer Eddie Huang goes on his first hunt, comes face to face with his dinner's demise and learns that [raised] Rabbit tastes like a cross between Chicken and Gator.

Could he really be 'The New Anthony Bourdain'?

More Soon

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Falconry In English Idiom

English language idioms derived from falconry
These English language idioms are derived from falconry:
ExpressionMeaning in falconryDerived meaning
in a batebating: trying to fly off when tetheredin a panic
with bated breathbated: tethered, unable to fly freerestrained and focussed by expectation
fed upof a hawk, with its crop full and so not wanting to huntno longer interested in something
haggardof a hawk, caught from the wild when adultlooking exhausted and unwell, in poor condition; wild or untamed
under his/her thumbof the hawk's leash when secured to the fisttightly under control
wrapped round his/her little fingerof the hawk's leash when secured to the fisttightly under control

rouseTo shake one's feathersStir or awaken
pounceReferring to a hawk's claws, later derived to refer to birds springing or swooping to catch preyJump forward to seize or attack something
to turn tail[Fly awayTo turn and run away

I've been off sick for the last couple of days, and spending the time wisely have spit it three ways: watching films of Birds of Prey, reading websites about Birds of Prey, and sleeping.

One of the many great things about Falconry is that the written history of the sport is so diverse and there's so much of it. It's been years since I read anything written in the older forms of English so it's been interesting [read challenging] to get back into it. Of course the marvel of English is the way the language constantly evolves to suit the needs of the speaker, taking words from other cultures and languages, and idiom from popular culture. Today there is an financial advice website that advertises itself on TV with an aristocratic Meer Cat who ends every explanation of the company's services with the word "Simples". It's become a popular way to end 'explanations' and 'discussions' on web forums.

Back in the day, when folks flying Falcons was a common sight, these phrases entered the language and are still with us today. There is at least one example missing from the Wikipedia list and I'm guessing a few more? Let me know in the comments when you think of them.

My Addition:
To 'Hawk up'       
 Meaning in falconry                                                                   
The sound of a hawk expelling the indigestible parts of a meal
Derived meaning
Clearing phlegm from the throat

More soon
your pal

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Deer Collision - What Next

It's that time again, on both sides of the pond as the weather cools the deer become more mobile, extending their wanderings in search of extra calories, and the chance to pass on their genes. Sadly for many of them their end will not be at the swift unseen hand of the hunter, but in collision with a car or truck.

  • Do take note of deer warning signs, by driving with caution at or below the posted speed limit. Such signs really are positioned only where animal crossings are likely. 
  • Peaks in deer related traffic collisions occur October through December, followed by May. Highest-risk periods are from sunset to midnight followed by the hours shortly before and after sunrise. 
  • Be aware that further deer may well cross after the ones you have noticed . 
  • After dark, do use full-beams when there is no opposing traffic. The headlight beam will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and provide greater driver reaction time. BUT, when a deer or other animal is noted on the road, dim your headlights as animals startled by the beam may ‘freeze’ rather than leaving the road. 
  • Don't overswerve to avoid hitting a deer. If a collision with the animal seems inevitable, then hit it while maintaining full control of your car. The alternative of swerving into oncoming traffic or a ditch could be even worse. An exception here may be motorcyclists, who are at particular risk when in direct collisions with animals. 
  • Only break sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic. Try to come to a stop as far in front of the animals as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic.

If the worst does happen, or you are first-to-the-scene when it's happened to someone else, here's the drill.
  • First of all, stay calm.
  • Avoid contact with the deer, its hooves or antlers.
  • Call the emergency services or ask another driver to do so.
  • Set up road flares [or warning triangles] if you have them in your emergency kit.
  • Contact your insurance policy provider.
In the USA not all insurance policys cover Deer Collision so it maybe a good idea to check with the lovely people at comprehensiveinsurancequotes.com to see if its worth getting cover in your state.

For a more detailed look at the issue in the UK see the excellent Deercollisions.co.uk

More soon

PS There's more read Deer Crossing Donna 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Fishing The River Usk Pt7

The last tangle of the trip

Some observations on the noble pastime that is Fly Fishing:

Fly Fishing is - Fighting your way though the undergrowth and thorns in expensive plastic trousers, carrying a really expensive stick that's so fragile it might as well be made of glass.

Fly Fishing is - buying or making a steam-side Special Effects department in miniature, and then using spider webs to tie the creations onto the line, while sitting in cold water, often in the dark.
From where I'm standing Fly-tying looks like a hobby within a hobby, apparently their are guys who have 'had to' build whole extensions on to their houses just to store the inevitable collections of fly tying materials. Some of which are collectable.

The moment just before the F±§k@R is cut off, and the whole process started again

Fly Fishing is - Relaxing by unknotting spiders webs in the half light of and overgrown stream. Practiced mainly by gentlemen of advancing years 'middle youth', who have finally acquired the patience required for all the untangling, the money for all the kit and caboodle and the time off.
The sport then serves mainly to remind the practitioner he needs reading glasses.

Fly Fishing is - Where the romance of craft and the precision of science intersect; it speaks of a past where men we'd like to be, men from a bygone era, make things, things of staggering precision, and make them in sheds. So that, armed with their creations, when time and financial tide are right we can re-hatch into ourselves as boys, all penknives and baseball caps, poking sticks into the water, and conjuring up visions of what might one day be.
Get anything? Some bushes, a soaking, spent a lot though!

Fly Fishing is - watching good intention turn to pragmatism as one fishless day turns into another
The Lighthouse Keeper [day one]: Oh no SBW, Dry Fly is what it's all about, that's the real thing
The Lighthouse Keeper [day three]: Lets do some nymphing!

Fly Fishing is - A school of fishing so up-itself that it can become, [once a collection of bit 'n' bobs have been bought - at at £4.98 each] any other kind of fishing (float, lure) without even noticing, yet still remain disdainful of them.
See - just like Abercrombie and Fitch

Fly Fishing is - The search for the simple life, the search for a time when we were grubby but happy, enthralled by the simplest things; following the movement of a ball of fluff as the currents tumble it down a streams meander, the flicker and flash of a tiny fish made from Peacock Feather, seeing that same feather-fish become the new kid on the block as fry, tentative and observent, surrounded it until the biggest and blodest of the fry muscles its way past the onlookers to break its teeth on the feather-fishes brass head.

Annoyingly the true pure simplicity of it all can only be revealed at vast expense. Often without the involvement of fish.

More soon