Saturday, 22 February 2014

London Locavore: Wood Pigeon

Five wood pigeons and a Rock dove

Lots being written and blogged about the Locavore diet recently, (food footsteps not food miles) but most of it is about growing vegetables or buying vegetables from someone near by.Where's the protein?
A by product of growing your own is crops in the suburbs is raiding by Pigeons and Squirrels, think of it as the Pigeons and Squirrels inviting themselves for a snack and staying to dinner. As the main course.

London's Grey Squirrel population seems to have been hammered by the recent cold  winter so they are off the menu for the time being. For the main course we'll be having  Wood Pigeon - these are the pigeons with a band of white around their necks.

In the UK you're allowed to shoot pests in your garden as long as the projectile doesn't leave the boundary of your property, so having ruled out the .50 sniper rifles, so with your air rifle over seedlings is probably your best bet.

As anyone who's been pigeon shooting with shotguns will tell you they are pretty much pellet proof unless you can entice them into close range, with an air rifle shooting roosting or bait eating birds head or spine shots at about 30 ft are the way to do it.

Pluck and refrigerate - pretty straight forward, if you want to eat the whole bird pluck the feathers in the direction in which they lie otherwise you'll get a lot of rips in the skin. I usually just eat the breasts pan fried but I'm on a nose-to-tail tip at the moment.  Pigeons really seem to benefit from being hung for a week or more, if that not an option, at least stood in the fridge for a couple of days.

While this post was in the making I saw a TV show mention that the manky Rock Doves from Trafalgar square that we think of as flying rats are actually NOT carriers of any diseases that are transferable to humans, then I saw that Jackson Landers AKA our friend The Locavore Hunter has been eating them in the US. You can see his film about it HERE. If I can get myself past the life long assumption that they are inherently unhealthy they represent an unlimited source of free local food. I tried the Rock Dove pictured; didn't die and wasn't able to tell the difference in a blindfold taste test.

If you can't safely shoot where you are, try calling your local pest controllers - once you convince them it's not a crank call - they're very likely to be able to help out as most of them are shooting gents themselves. One pest control guy I spoke to suggested traps and an air pistol are the way forward for the dedicated locavore. The Trapman sells traps for just about anything you'd want to eat trap.

Hardcore Preppers will tell you that as the oil crisis starts to bite this will be how we all get our inner city dinner. For more about the history of Urban hunting see HERE

More Soon

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Nomad UK Hill Smock Review

Quiet, warm, waterproof, durable, cheap. 4/5 isn't too shabby.

Back in the mists of time, when this blog was young and it actually looked like I might one day bowhunt an Elk, James Marchington wrote a post about buying a fleece jacket made from material so waterproof the company made waders from it. Later James still seemed very happy with it, another blogger of my acquaintance The Bambi Basher called Nomad 'perfect clothes for the hill'. He's worn his set on every trip to Scotland and wouldn't be without them "Tracky for the house and Nomad for the hill, it's all you need to bring".

Nomad UK are one of those companies from a bygone era, they make some very cool products, that not many people have ever heard of.
While every chump with a facebook account and a misplaced belief in their own innate design skill has launched some kind of outdoor crap. Nomad have been making weather-beating clothes for the outdoorsman and keeping the news to themselves. They have a website that can perhaps best be described as 'obscure'. They don't even publish a list of stockists, clear pictures of the clothes, or any but the most cursory details about their fly rods. I know my own photography isn't up to much, but to be fair I don't put a lot of effort into it and I'm not selling clothes.

The jackets Nomad are famous for are cut in the smock style, the front panel coming well below the waist and the back being longer still, available either hooded and openable only to the waist or hoodless and zippered all the way down. A scottish Shalwar Kameez if you like.
The material is a thick fleece with taped seams, non meeting seams are edged in synthetic leather, by reputation they are 100% water and windproof. They are disconcertingly lightweight. It's a bit like you've accidentally gone out in your pajamas, they are really lightweight. The material is thick for fleece, but its still only fleece.
I've worn the Plus4's and smock beating in a thunder storm that got the shoot called off, at the end of the long trudge to the barn I was the only person who was still dry. I still couldn't quite believe it and put off writing this review. A few days ago I pressure-washed a patio in the pissing rain, and still bone dry at the end of the day, turned the pressure-washer on myself. Still dry. The other thing that's great about this 'outdoor jammy's' thing is, they are the quietest clothes this side of cashmere. Even wool hunting coats rustle, and ventile scratches in comparison

When my box arrived in the post I put the coat on. Before I could get to the mirror, or ask for it, Elfa gave me her appraisal  "Whoever made that for you is no taylor, is it even your size?" I've tried to explain to her that the deer don't care, I just want to be dry or at least warm and wet but it seems her dad always cut a dash while slaying partridges in the semi-desert of Spain. All I could think was 'Thank god she isn't Austrian, she'd want me to wear a cape'.

With their obscure website and strangely cut clothes it would be easy to imagine Nomad being seen as deeply unfashionable, but wait. All that is to change!
Last week, 'Hunter' another brand from the hinterland where practicality once ruled over style made their debut at London Fashion week. This would have passed me by but fortunately the keen-eyed Elfa was on hand to offer her incisive commentary.
"Look at disbeach, Joder, she's got your coat on, ess awful! Joder!"
So aside from the reassuring knowledge that, even afield, you are mysteriously at the very cutting edge of fashion, what else do you get for your money?

Very roomy and soft, outdoor pajamas. Andy Kirkpatrick once wrote an interesting piece about the psychological comfort we seek in very solid heavy outdoor clothes. I'd put Nomad in the same class as Kifaru's Packlock Parka - there's something vaguely disturbing about being in the cold, feeling warm, yet strangely underdressed.
 The bum-warmer pocket is a good idea for keeping a foam mat in place while hunting from highseats/treestands, but it would have been more versatile if the zip was horizontal and the pocket a bit bigger.
 The main zip seems fine but the smaller zips aren't really up to the job, this one has broken already.
The binocular pocket on the right is a stroke of genius, so simple and so effective, the document pocket suffers from the same flaws as the bum-warmer pocket and is unfortunately stitched in vertically so its not really useable if you're wearing a pack or harness.
The Binocular pocket is easily big enough as you can see from these super bargain 8x40's from Eden, there's easily enough room for glass in the 50mm class.
The panel under the sleeve is excellent, this smock is a bowhunter's dream so quiet and such good maneuverability, it'd be great for beachcasting too. Personally I'd have given the smock pit-zips as its very warm and not very breathable. They'd have the added advantage that it would be much more comfortable to wear with a pack's waistbelt worn inside the smock.

After so pretty wet and windy real world testing, and being 'pressure tested' with a pressure-washer here are my findings:

Warmth: Excellent can't fault it.

Waterproofness: Wow really really good.

Quietness: Superb. best yet tested.

Design: Functionally perfect, I couldn't help but feel that the Hill Smock is made up of missed chances to design something really fantastic. The money and time that went into the stupid belt loops could have been better deployed on the pockets and 'pit-zips' which could do double duty, making the smock a joy to wear with a pack rather than unnecessarily annoying.

Build Quality: The material is excellent, the seam tape is well bonded, the main zip is ok, the pocket zips are crap.

Style: I'm told I'm not qualified to make a judgement about that, but I have it on good authority that the deer don't care and 9/10 rabbits didn't respond to the survey.

Would I buy another one?
Absolutely. In a heartbeat. Annoyingly imperfect, but really really good.

More soon

PS Nomad also make a very highly regarded wading jacket - but more of that later.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Unboxing Review Spyderco's South Fork By Phil Wilson

South Fork: home of TV's Ewings, an area in Utah, Phil Wilson's collaboration with Spyderco, or the place where the idea moves in another direction.

Phil Wilson made his name with a back-to-the-future design philosophy, while most makers favor a full-tang hunting/survival ethos Phil Wilson's is more hidden-tang fishing/hunting. All over the world people cut up fish with long thin flexible blades, all over the world butchers use long thin blades.  Yet all over the world knife makers sell short, thick, rigid blades as 'hunting' 'outdoor' and 'skinning' knives.

As ever, my interest was piqued by the idea of outlying performance coming from outlying thinking. Having owned a few 'sharpened pry-bars' over the years I was curious to try out his potentially 'foodie-afield' concept. So when Phil Wilson's Spyderco collaboration turned up at a price I could almost justify, in yet another moment of weakness I bought one.

Spyderco have always been one of my favorite companies, not just for their wonderful sharpeners and lazer-like folding knives, but the way Sal and Gail Glasser run their enterprise.
Spyderco have a way of speaking to their customers, 'speaking to' is wrong, they have a discourse with their customers that melds bespoken with small-to-medium production runs. You get a tool closely designed to a users brief, from a production run that's big enough that you can actually buy one, but small enough that there's a lively secondhand market for most of the designs.

I've seen 'business guru's' and 'marketing thought-leaders' waffle on about engaging with the customer, every time I've put my hand up and said "like Spyderco?" I've been greeted with blank incomprehension. Look and learn people. Spyderco have made a good thing out of offering: generalist and niche tools, in limited edition colours and specifications, feeding their customers interest not only in the designs but the materials. partnering with designers, makers, and groups of fans. Using the internet's knife forums as focus groups, and achieving that holy grail - offering the customer what they didn't know they wanted. Look and learn people. Look and learn.

 "The South Fork has evolved over about 20 years of my own use and from feedback from those who have used my custom knives. It is named after a mountain and valley area in Utah where I have hunted for Mule Deer and Elk. I guess you could call it a general purpose Sportsman, Working/ Utility knife. The edge sweep and trailing point make for an easy cutting geometry. The sharp point comes in handy for fine work like caping or removing a splinter or cactus spine. The belly sweep and slightly dropped handle position the blade in the hand for skinning big game. Some prefer a drop point or semi skinner for field dressing and skinning chores, but the trailing point has worked very well for me as well. Some will also prefer a shorter blade but again my preference is for a little more reach for boning out an elk quarter or removing the back strap. Some blade shapes are more efficient for specific field tasks but it is my humble opinion that the trailing point can cover a wide range of tasks easily."
Phil Wilson. 
You can read his articles on sharpening, steel performance and knife making HERE

The numbers:
Blade Steel: CPM-S90V
Handle Material: Green G-10
Sheath material: Bolatron ™
Weight: 5.3oz (151 g)
Overall Length:  9.57'' (243 mm)
Blade Length: 4.82" (122 mm)
Blade Thickness 0.118" (3mm)
Most fishing knives are a bit longer in the blade than this, most hunting knives a fair bit shorter. Will this be best of both worlds?

The is the first time I've seen Boltaron used as an alternative sheath material to Kydex, I don't know what its like to work with, but it's very nice stuff in the hand. The grade Spyderco have used here is a tad thinner than the kydex I've used to make sheaths, and the surface just a little smoother. It would seem to have exceptional shape hugging properties. One to watch.

Would I buy one for 'list price'? It's a very nice knife, made of the best materials, to a really high standard of fit and finish, but there are other knives that would get my $429.95. There are other Spyderco's that I'd buy before I'd saved up the money!
Would I buy one for 'street price'? Hell yes. I very nearly did. the South Fork has been a serious contender on my wish list for a while. On the day I had a window open and was about to press 'order now' at a more reasonable $230 on Amazon, when I found this example secondhand. I'm only going to use/scratch mine, I don't have any drawer queens, so I was happy to save more than a few bucks by going pre-loved.

More soon
PS I have a meat related project in mind, stay tuned for some real world testing in part two.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Unboxing Review: 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12

 I was looking for a daypack that I could use; piggybacked on my larger packs, day-to-day around town, or as carry-on when traveling on the very cheapest of european airlines. The 5.11 Tactical brand has a growing following online so when the chance to test one of the packs came my way I jumped at it. I've chosen the Rush 12 which is 5.11's 22l day pack. This model is very popular with the EDC crowd, lots of pockets and attachment points for all your Every Day Carry needs, tactical and indeed practical.

Let's get this puppy out the box!

Made in China was once a synonym for crappy, not any more, this pack is well stitched together and the materials used are as good or better than the camping store brands. The body is in a grade 5.11 call 1050D cordura. Which seems pretty tough and has been given a waterproof coating. We'll test that in part 2.

There is another name for the EDC crowd - knick-knack collectors - so its popularity is no surprise with it's grand total of 16 pockets, compartments and slots. If you look on the EDC forums or British Blades you'll see people showing their minimalist day packs - Kifaru's E&E for example - which have been fitted with side pods, organisers and all kinds of pouches. Great fun to choose and collect, but buying a pack that you then spec-out with pouches to carry the EDCer or Mall Ninja's; three torches, compasses, survival capsules, assorted electronica, multi tool[s], multiple knives and, that most essential of items, a tin foil hat, will quickly double both the sticker price and weight. Another downside is that the uncompressed load will be increased; all those pouches shaking and wobbling about as you walk decreases stability which is uncomfortable then fatiguing. The other [main] downside is that if your choice had been from the Kifaru or Maxpedition ranges; you'd now have spent the price of one of their bigger packs which would have been able to take a wider variety of weights, and be a far nicer carry than a minimalist pack with loads of extras grafted on to it.

My criteria for a pack in this size is different to the bigger packs: its not for hunting and fishing trips, its more of a mobile desk or portable office organiser. It needs to; hold a laptop securely, some paper files, have slots for pens and pencils, assorted measuring tools, a place to keep laptop and phone chargers where the prongs of the plugs don't scratch other things in the pack, I also need it to carry a packed lunch and some water. If it can stow all that and carry a sweater or rain jacket its meeting my needs size wise, and if I don't have to spend an age rummaging for every little thing, all the better.

A very nice touch is the integral fleece-lined pocket for your glasses - its the sort of thing you'll use every day and its in the right place - accessed from the unopened pack. With other packs I've always had to add one as an accessory.

The Rush 12 has a dedicated pocket for either a bladder or laptop which is positioned just right to keep the weight as near to your spine as possible.

These tabs conceal ports, for both normal people and southpaws, for the tube from a water bladder, a nice touch with the spare port the perfect pathway for a lead to or from a solar charger.

A little extra thought for the lifting loop's design is a nice touch too.

A good sternum strap helps a lot with stability, I find this one rides a bit too high for me and will be modded with a couple of snap rings.

The two compression straps aren't doing a whole lot of compressing but seem up to the job of protecting the zip. I really like the strap-tidies, 5.11's are similar to ones Mystery Ranch sell as an extra, and way, way better than ITW Nexus Web Dominators which always seem to go missing.

The full opening panel is a worthwhile touch if the bag is to do duty as a mobile office.

These little panels work like Kiraru' Amor-grip an idea so good I can't see why more pack makers haven't copied it.

Here's where the magic happens:
By putting the laptop/tablet pocket as close to your spine as possible 5.11 have given the pack the best chance possible of it being a pleasant carry, an interesting knock-on effect is that the shoulder straps are mounted behind the weight which seems to have a cantilever effect holding the pack to your back and allowing far less vertical movement. Makes a big difference.

The Verdict:
If there's a spectrum of packs, from Walmart/Lidl at the cheap and nasty end to Kifaru at the heirloom quality and spendy end. 5.11 are over the centreline for quality and quite a way under it for price.
For those of you who suck a lemon at the thought of spending $300-$600 [+ import taxes] on a daysack made in a western oligarchy by people paid a living wage, 5.11's chinese made offerings, at around the $100 mark are worth a look.
A well thought out design, well made, out of suitable materials. Comes with many of the tweaks other brands sell as extras. At around $100 excellent value for money. Definitely a keeper.

The lovely people at Ready To Go Survival have the full range, either empty or pre-loaded with some very well thought out bug-out and medical kits. Good guys to deal with.

More Soon
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