Thursday, 18 February 2010

One Of The Good Guys.

A couple of nights ago I saw the first part of a new series on the BBC.  Mastercrafts is  Monty Don's new program about - well der - Masters of  crafts. The first episode is about green wood working and features my old mate Guy Mallinson.

Guy is something of a master of understatement too, the program describes him as 'having been a successful cabinet maker in London' he probably told them 'oh I've made a couple of bits and pieces'. That's like Dave Petzal saying he fired a couple of rifles one afternoon. Twenty years ago Guy was already making incredible furniture, and as the years have gone by although I've not seen a lot of him, every so often I've seen him win an award for the fitting out of some new and ground breaking building. 

He's managed to pull of that great city-dweller fantasy of moving his operation to the wilds of Dorset slashing his living costs and vastly improving his standard of living. He's developed a another career as a teacher of Green Wood Working, the main difference between green wood working and regular carpentry is the craftsman use green or unseasoned wood and all the joints are self affixing - no screws or nails,  just the tension caused by the wood drying and contracting. Literally the pathway from a freshly sawn log to a piece of furniture - unplugged. All without the use of power tools.

Being a TV show certain annoying conventions 'must' be followed, despite the name of the show telling us its going to be about a master of his craft, the program makers felt the need to up the 'human interest' factor and take their cue from the big book of reality television. They found three volunteers and Guy took on the role of gently nudging them towards a finished chair by the end of the show.

Personally I'd rather have seen Guy work his magic from standing tree to siting at a table and chair, but the conventions of TV now mean we have to inject some 'human interest', with some participants first set up to fail so they can be swept along by the redemptive power of their new skill. Yawn. 

"Who cares if she cant Whittle a Skittle, I wanna see your mate do his stuff" 
Ex Mrs SBW [she's all heart, no?]

At one point we see Guy explaining how the tolerance required for two pieces of wood to fit and stay fitted as they dry is 0.2mm (0.007 in.), this caught my attention and as the students look on dismayed at what's needed of them Guy breezily says ' I've got a trick for that though'. Sadly we're never shown just how this piece of carpentarial voodoo is pulled off.

But the good news is if, like me, yew wood [sorry] like to find out what it really takes to do this sort of thing you can attend one of his courses in the stunning woodlands of Dorset. We may even meet there?

Here's the link to his site, the courses look like a lot of fun as you can see from the show Guy is an extremely patient man, who makes sure that no student, whatever their previous experience, is left behind.

Defiantly one of the good guys

Your pal

PS if you want to watch the show or any other BBC shows but you're not in the UK here's how anonymous proxy severs will let you change your IP address so you can watch.

PPS Guy now has his own blog

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Handpresso - wilderness expresso maker review

Wanted one of these puppies for a while now. Here's for why

The punters have to trust us not to take pictures of their hideous taste in interior design and post them on the internet (heartily pasted in disparaging remarks), and we have to trust them to lay on an acceptable minimum standard of recuperative. Sadly even your pal the bushwacker AKA London's gentleman plumber is unable to consistently find customers worthy of the customer service they are treated to. 

Face facts: 
You might drink that filth, but madam, we don't. End of.

I've often though that we should get an expresso machine and flight case it, so we could set up our own coffee bar where ever we are, train one of the apprentices as a barista and improve our working conditions. So I was intrigued when I saw the Handpresso wilderness expresso maker in a french hunting magazine. Once again the internet came to my rescue and I was able to buy one at an 'unwanted christmas gift' price.

Let the Un-Boxing commence

After the customary new product dismay - as is usual today the packaging had been designed almost thoroughly as as the product it's self - I finally wrestled it from its box[es] and got to work. 

It's quite a chunky beast  - you wouldn't really call it 'wilderness equipment', but I'm not sure how many they'd sell if they called it the 'Handpresso builders expresso maker'. 

It really couldn't be much easier to use, if fact its a lot more straitforward than a lot of the counter-top expresso makers i've used. You set the release valve to closed, give it 30 pumps pressurizing it to 16 BAR [or 240 psi], pour a little boiled water into the clear plastic dome, tamp coffee grounds into the little hopper, drop the hopper into place, click the lid shut and you're good-to-go. 

Out squirts a very convincing Expresso, just the kind of required recuperative that puts a spring in your step, widens the eye, fires the synapses, and lifts the human spirit. In summation a great bit of kit for picnics, beach casting, and car camping. Not really the kit of a backwoodsman. But as i've reported before if a little 'Glamping' is the price a purist such as myself must endure to have my sleeping bag warmed by the likes of the Ex Mrs SBW, well so be it.

Design, build, and the end product, defiantly put it in the category of 'things that don't suck'.

All the best
Your pal
The Bushwacker.

EDIT It's stopped working - Company declined to fix it - new review on the way

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Pinole In One - Trail Foods

After a few weeks where the temperature rose as high as 10c (50F) it’s now dropped down again and is snowing outside. I'n not working this week so my retreat into the classics continues, I’ve been re reading Kephart’s “Camping and Woodcraft’ where I came across this insight do any of you have any experience of it?

Kephart writes: 
Some years ago Mr. T. S. Van Dyke, author of The Still Hunter and other well-known works on fieldsports, published a very practical article on emergency rations in a weekly paper, from which, as it is now buried where few can consult it, I take the liberty of making the following quotation

'La comida del desierto, the food of the desert, or pinole, as it is generally called, knocks the hind sights off all American condensed food. It is the only form in which you can carry an actual weight and bulk of nutriment on which alone one can, if necessary, live continuously for weeks, and even months, without any disorder of stomach or bowels. . . . The principle of pinole is very simple. If you should eat a break- 
fast of corn-meal mush alone, and start out for a hard tramp, you will feel hungry in an hour or two, though at the table the de-wrinkling of your abdomen may have reached the hurting point. But if, instead of distending the meal so much with water and heat, you had simply mixed it in cold water and drunk it,
you could have taken down three times the quantity in one-tenth of the time. You would not feel the difference at your waistband, but you would feel it mightily in your legs, especially if you have a heavy rifle on your back. It works a little on the principle of dried apples, though it is quite an improvement. There is no danger of explosion; it swells to suit the demand, and not too suddenly.

Suppose, now, instead of raw corn-meal, we make it not only drinkable but positively good. This is easily done by parching to a very light brown before grinding, and grinding just fine enough to mix so as to be drinkable, but not pasty, as flour would be. Good wheat is as good as corn, and perhaps better, while the mixture is very good. Common rolled oats browned in a pan in the oven and run through a spice mill is as good and easy to make it out of as anything. A coffee mill may do if it will set fine enough. Ten per cent, of popped com ground in with it will improve the flavor so much that your children will get away with it all if you don't hide it. Wheat and corn are hard to grind, but the small Enterprise spice mill will do it.

You may also mix some ground chocolate with it for flavor, which, with popped corn, makes it very fine. . . . Indigestible? Your granny's nightcap! . . . You must remember that it is "werry fillin' for the price," and go slow with it until you have found your co-efficient. . . .

Now for the application. The Mexican rover of the desert will tie a small sack of pinole behind his saddle and start for a trip of several days. It is the lightest of food, and in the most portable shape, sandproof, bug and fly proof, and everything. Wherever he finds water he stirs a few ounces in a cup (I never weighed it, but four seem about enough at a time for an ordinary man), drinks it in five seconds, and is fed for five or six hours. If he has jerky, he chews that as he jogs along, but if he has not he will go through the longest trip and come out strong and well on pinole alone.'
Shooting and Fishing, Vol. XX, p. 248.

And because there are no new ideas in blogging Stealth Survival has beaten me to it by a month, posting a piece with all the relevant stats about the make-up of this super food. Not that I wish to encourage this sort of thing, but the No Meat Athlete has a bit more info, some useful pictures of the cooking process, showing how to make trail-cakes as well as the drinkable form.
EDIT - Also worth a look is The Ultralighters take on Pinole
Your pal
The Bushwacker

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

If You Write It - We Will Read it

"They take unbelievable pleasure in the hideous blast of the hunting horn and baying of the hounds. Dogs dung smells sweet as cinnamon to them."

Erasmus Desiderius - who must be a friend of Chad's, who else could he be quoting when he said "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

After my last post I sent begging letters to far-flung places requesting dog-eared copies of yesteryears hunting and adventure magazines and writings. As I dreamed of reading something a bit better written,  from a [mythical] past where all the writers were always on fire, a piece that could invoke the spirt of those quiet places. My RSS feeds reminded me that tomorrows bloggers will only see this golden age of outdoor blogging if we tell each other about it: Chad had sat down at his keyboard to cast his spell

Where Chad reviews a book and his reasons for reading it

....early on in life I found my primary solace in the solitary comforts of books, ponds, rivers, woods, fields and the company of dogs. I found something there I simply couldn’t find anywhere else. I knew it the first time I walked along a forgotten little trash-strewn suburban creek more drainage ditch than stream, casting for bluegills and finding such wonder and mystery in its tepid waters. I knew it the first time I sat huddled and freezing against the base of a tree as a buck - the first I’d ever seen not running like hell in the opposite direction – apparated before me like a passing drift of smoke. And I knew it the night I first heard the plaintive calls of a passing flock of Canada geese, somewhere far above me in the impossibly black night.

Each polarity contains the seed of its opposite,  the inner peace of solitude would just be loneliness if  not set against the counterpoint of bonhomie,  and who better to demonstrate bonhomie than The Chief Chronicler himself? 

Charged! Hog Hunting Adventures.
Charged they were, misadventures they nearly were!

“We drove up to the guides ramshackle house, the driveway entrance marked by a couple of mismatched fire hydrants (ill gotten to be sure). A couple of hounds of questionable pedigree lifted their mange ridden heads to see what the wind was dragging in, and wearily dropped them back into the dust wallow they were in. A little cur with half an ear came up happily to meet us, his tail just a waggin, and a look on his face, that in hindsight could have easily been taken as "Please, take me away from here!" But I was more taken by the charnel smell in the air; a mix between a slaughterhouse and a municipal waste dump. It wouldn't be long before I was to find out what caused that peculiar and most disagreeable odor.”

A Nice Walk In The Park

Where fitness is tested, and lessons in preparedness are learned.

“As I was licking the last bit of bacon grease, tomato, and mayo off my finger tips, I thought of how fortuitous I was to live on some land, far from the foolishness of subdivisions and McMansions. I made a comment to my wife about it. She nodded in agreement, and offhandedly remarked that, not only had I not shot any of my firearms in quite some time, but that I hadn’t even done any of my usual scouting either. Handing me the keys to the gun safe, she said I should really go and spend some quality time by myself and do a little shooting and maybe some scouting. “Who knows,” she said, “there could be a hog on the prowl somewhere.” Well I certainly didn’t need anymore encouragement.”

Chad reminded me that the future is still unwritten - so the benediction should be:

"may you live in interesting times and get to be a part of them write them up on your blog".

Your pal
PS If you have any old hunting mags you think i'd like send me an email.
Picture credit Chad

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Write Your own

Another of those strange blogin' coincidences took place this afternoon, just as I was going to tell you about a new online magazine called Sleeping In The Dirt that Urbn Outdoors had linked to, Tom who writes the Trout underground has posted this piece, using his crystal ball to look a the future for Fly Fishing magazines, Hook and Bullet magazines, and perhaps magazines in general.

With the quality and passion that crews like 'sleeping in the dirt' and 'this is fly' are serving up in the digital format, it's easy to see his point. Sleeping in the dirt is, I'm guessing a labour of love as the mast head proudly proclaims

No Sponsors No Advertisements, No Limits...No Shit.

With 'No Cash' the team will just have to plug away at it like the rest of us for the love of it. Good on 'em.
It seems to be working as they report a hit count of 110,000 already. Not quite up there with the market leaders but defiantly well ahead of some of the print titles their voice is replacing. Good luck chaps.

So what is it that makes these new voices so compelling? I think its a mixture of perceived honesty of the new school and the old guard looking caught out by the changing landscape. The authority that magazines used to have is waning, and fast.

I've recently been running that most classic of man-style purchasing strategies and 'researching' a new pair of boots.
I will buy a pair, but first I have to feel I've looked into enough options. It may take months as every choice has to be evaluated against every other potential choice. This is a behavior that once upon a time involved buying lots of magazines, best buy guides and special editions. Now I do it online. The woman-style purchasing strategy is very similar but often takes place on foot going to shop after shop, the man-style takes place in an armchair collecting data - sometimes for months before walking up to the counter telling the shopkeeper the size colour and specification before marching out of the door in double quick time, proudly telling the Mrs' See babe, i just go and buy it, why do you have to take so long?'

While researching I found an option that i hadn't seen or considered before, typed it into a google, and searched for the user reviews by owners. There's the sticking point that big media has - I've come to favor the perceived honesty of bloggers and forum members over the 'bought endorsement' of journalists.

Not all bloggers are experts - we all know there are bloggers chasing 'numbers' who will gladly repeat pretty much any press release that gets sent to them with a dollop of praise from 'Tiffany' the 'online specialist' [in this instance 'online specialist' is a euphemism for intern].

Not all journalists are the puppets of PR departments - I once heard a great example of this from one journalist along the lines of 'they sent a pair of boots for review, they came with a not asking for the boots to be returned by the end of the week - UNWORN'. He had the luxury of sending the boots back not only unworn but ignored. Not every magazine has that freedom.

The boots I might have wanted are a new 'teched-up' version of range-topping model by well known european manufacturer. One who due to their high prices has the money to position themselves in hunting mags across europe.

I liked the blurb, I liked the fact that I could get 25% off, but once I'd read THAT user report....

"Whatever you do don't buy them. I did, leaked in a week, fell apart in twelve weeks and the company said their one year warranty doesn't apply as I wore them everyday and they are outdoor pursuits clothes designed for occasional use'

"An even stronger version of our strongest boot" just doesn't sound so enticing when compared to the expectation of 'occasional use' does it? Did he really ever own a pair? I'll never know, but the perception of first hand knowledge and hard field use was there. Could a print magazine afford to come to such a conclusion? I doubt it. So what's left for the great magazines of yesteryear to do? Let's take Field and Stream as an example.

Regular readers will know about my admiration for, and dismay at the Field and Stream empire - I think of F&S as a smelly, slightly sexist uncle who knows a lot of interesting stuff, occasionally tells really good stories about the old days, but has some throwback views and probably has a few racist friends. I keep up my subscription, ignoring the fact that only half the issues i pay for actually make it through the US postal service, hoping, ever hoping, that the bean counters will let the magazine be itself again.

The last two issues have been a partial return to form, Bill Heavy's piece about spending time with the Alaskan trapper was fantastic - the kind of long-form journalism that belongs on a page not a screen, the kind that prompted me to take the copy round to The Northern Monkey's boat and tell him to read it. Great moments, sadly looking all the greater as they are set against some of the most pointless shit yet published. Sorry chaps but it's true, that '50 states of the great outdoors' or what ever it was called was rubbish and obviously rubbish culled from the internet by an intern. Cheap to produce, would have worked on a blog, but not good enough for F&S.

So it's been interesting watching developments around the 'digital campfire' that the F&S site and blogs purport to be.
Holly who writes the excellent NorCal Cazadora blog fulfilled a long held prediction of mine and was asked to contribute to the F&S blog-site - the subject was Booth Babes. I've long been a fan of Holly's blog - if I wasn't the first commenter I was certainly one of the first - so I was made up to see one of our own receive such recognition. Holly is exactly the kind of person I'd invite to write for the magazine - she can really write, knows how to meet a deadline, never needs to play the expert, and is full of enthusiasm. As the old demographic dies off she represents a pretty good template for a future audience. Double Income No Kids, and an evangelical streak a mile wide - an advertisers dream.
Cabelas were smart enough to see the potential in getting her onboard and they buy a lot of space from F&S. Could I be any blunter?

Holly wrote a short blog about her view that covering the SHOT show Booth Babes feature being the days top story was not conducive to promoting F&S as an inclusive space that welcomes newbies. Boys: I'm sure many of us have had more than a passing interest in the 'visual arts' or magazines catering for 'gentlemen's interests' over the years, but wether or not you live in the puritanical US or the come-as-you-are metropolis's of europe, i doubt any of us would feel comfortable or appropriate discussing such interests with say, a neighbors twelve year old daughter? The space has changed and it would be prudent to keep that in mind - did I understand you Holly?

So how did it all turn out? Some comments were well thought out, some ran the whole gamut of intellectual rigor from A to B and at least one loafer wearing smart arse chimed in a few times taking great delight in repeating the sage words of the F&S mascot and offering patronizing dating advice to the fudds- he thought he was being funny. Correct me if I'm wrong but i don't think there's ever been a story on the F&S site that's had so many comments. If this thing gets any blunter it'll be a spoon.

Holly's first post on her blog Ahem, there are GIRLS in the room!

Her guest editorial Is here

Your pal
PS just to prove that I'm not giving up my position as armchair evolutionary psychologist/ Sexist pig - BABES?!!! WTF!!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Your New Montana Home?

Dennis who writes the Montana Elk hunting Blog has moved to Alaska and started a new blog about his adventures there, so he's selling his place in Montana, have a look, it's pretty cool, lots of space to think and write.
When compared to a an apartment in London or NYC it's pretty affordable too.

Only 12 miles from the Sun River Winter Elk Range,
home to the largest migrating elk herd in Montana--about 2500 of them!
Sadly not many punters for new designer bathrooms though, so not for me, but it might be perfect for you?

Shimano STC Travel Rod Review

"The rod is a bamboo weighing seven ounces, which has to be spliced with a winding of silk thread every time it is used. This is a tedious process; but, by fastening the joints in this way, a uniform spring is secured in the rod. No one devoted to high art would think of using a socket joint."
Charles Dudley Warner 1829-1900

Long before this blog was born or thought of I took up fishing, but living an hour or more from the sea and hating the tyranny of long sticks in a small car or the hassley long-sticks-on-the-train. I looked around for a travel rod - same idea as before, One Rod For Everything. Some people (who own fishing shops) say there's no such thing, but I did find a rod that does it all.

The Nine Foot Spinning Rod.

You can spin with it (obviously), you can ledger with it (a 1oz+ weight holds the bait to the bottom), you can freeline with it ( using a shimmering slice of fish as a spinner), you can float fish with it, and it's much better than a boat rod for fishing off a pier.

I've got the Shimano STC 330 (which has now been superseded by the 3033H6) it's a really great rod with a medium action (the speed it springs back to straight) and its tough. I've lost count of the times I've bashed it into trees or dropped it onto the rocks. Keeps on keeping on.

The rod accompanied myself and The Northern Monkey on our 'fishing trip of shame' where we successfully had fish 'under observation' on both sides of north america - They sneered at our bait in the east (until the hook had been removed when they chowed down like they'd been starved) and from Venice Pier we were treated to piscine mockery of the worst kind - a whole posse of table size fish literally swam 'round my Yo Zuri lure laughing, as a particularly handsome specimen wiped the tears from his eyes he guffawed 'HA HA You paid a tenner for THAT!'

Lots of companies make something equivalent to this rod. Some for more money - some for less, but I've never been tempted, and I must have had it for about 6 or 7 years. It's in six sections, casts 20-50g (very cool for big lures - and freelining), packs up into a 700mm tube that can survive being sat on, and at the time was less than £60/$100. The full range is here. Total Thumbs Up from me.

The forum posts are pretty typical of the reviews the range has had over the years.
I guess Chad would give it Things That Don't Suck status.

Your pal