23 June 2013

Angry Mothers, Dead Wolves & Punk Wood Fire

It's been raining for five or six days now and no relief in the forecast. I needed some woods time so donned the rubber boots, Filson's chaps, and hit the trail for some much required peace in the woods. Though our spring was late coming it is now here in full green regalia, nothing is blooming yet  and it's nearly July! Our winter ran excessively long, the last of our snow didn't melt until late May and then storm after storm and unseasonably mild temperatures. None the less my legs needed moving and by bowarm needed action, stump thumpin was on the menu.
The State Bird of Minnesota, the mosquito, fly in formation as squadron after squadron attempt to penetrate whatever defenses you muster, between lemon eucalyptus and a Thermacell I attempt to hold them at bay. Those that brave the chemical wall find no joy as they attempt to get through my clothing. Doesn't help them or me, that I inadvertantly eat a few of them as I walk.
As I turned a corner in the trail one angry, wet, screaming grouse hen went ballistic.  I could see her chicks dashing for cover to either side of the trail behind her but I lost sight of them as she went into full 'You Shall Not Pass' mode.

 Cackles up she charged me in a rush of angry wet feathers, it was tough to get the camera to focus she was moving so fast. One mad mama whose chicks you don't mess with! I slipped laterally out of that confrontation and rejoined the trail a couple hundred yards further down.

The clouds were in the trees though not as bad the the pea soup from the past couple days.

Absolutely everything is soaked, standing water everywhere, nothing is dry.

I wish I knew how old this paper birch is, it is one of the largest ones I've come across.

Today's trail companions, thermacell which emitted a skeeter wall all day, faithfully. One of my favorite bows, this one is a 68" 70#  Leon Stewart, the stumps around here call it Foe Hammer. Bison Gear Lost River pack, and a mildly modified Fieldcraft knife.

 As I said, our winter was long, deep snow came early and stayed through mid may. It was tough on every one and every animal. As I coursed the far wood I came across the remains of this wolf, I can't say when  it died but I'm guessing in late winter, probably late February when the worst of it was on us. Temps fell well below zero, stayed there for several weeks and the snow just kept coming. I'll never know if the death was from starvation or otherwise.

I found myself close to last years deer camp so I stopped for lunch and a coffee, if I could get a fire going.

Kettle, knife, fire kit and an empty soup bowl egging me on.

Using one of the reflector logs I had put in place last year I swung it hard and busted it across the table top rock exposing the dry punky inner sections.

Popping the fire kit out, my plan was to get a small coal fire going inside the punk wood.

Using the tender from the fire kit I got a ember and blew it to flame inside the old chunk of wood.

Water's on!

As the water for a quick soup and coffee came to a boil our missing in action Sun broke the clouds and a dappled the forest floor emerged.

After lunch smoke from a hand made pipe, today's blend 'Ruins of Isengard'.

All in all a fine day to be out and about the backwoods regardless of the weather.

20 June 2013

Cheap Trick for a Dry Dome

I've always been a fan of Filson's Oil Finish Wax products. Their unlined Tin Cruiser essentially unchanged since 1914, and chaps are used frequently and they've served steadfastly for many years, a story for another time...

With all of their water repellent goods comes a can of Filson's Oil Finish Wax. You can also order the tins individually, usually around $10 or so. It's meant to be used to refinish the tin cloth as it wears over time and works excellently for that task.

But oh so many other uses. I like it on hard working leather gloves as it preserves, protects, waterproofs and after some use you end up with a mild tacky traction grip that I like the feel of when using mauls or axes and the like. Some of my leather I treat with Montana Pitch Blend, another great product, but the working gloves get the Filson treatment.

I'm also a fan of applying it to hats, certain hats that I'm likely to wear in the rain, while the tin cruiser is keeping my upper body dry, a treated hat is keeping my dome dry and the rain off my eye wear.

With a single can you can usually do several hats and it lasts a long time. I've treated everything from ball caps to Million Mile hats with the stuff to great effect. Recently I took the time to do a boonie hat, the results of which can be seen below and it has worked outstandingly well. 

Cheap, easy, and it flat out works!

18 June 2013

Best Wetterlings I Ever Bought

I've owned a lot of them, and most of the sizes, still own several that get quite a bit of use.

But the best one I ever bought wasn't an axe at all, unless you count the maul as an axe and I don't.

I heat the lodge with wood and nothing but. We've got a LP furnace as back up but it hasn't been turned on in years. Our typical winter has us starting to burn in mid September, wife still had a fire in the mornings through May 26th this year. It was 32 degrees on Friday morning last week when I left for the cities and she had me get her a fire going before I left. We classify our burning season as 6 months most years, within which we'll consume between 6 and 7 cords in a normal winter to as much as 12 cords a couple years back. The lodge is well insulated and situated so that the largest section of the house faces the south, the big bay windows collecting the sun's radial heat all day.

All that to say we go through some wood.

We split with mauls, all of it, as I don't much care to do it any other way. Gpaps once told me that wood heats twice, once when you cut it and once when you burn it. I've not forgotten that old saw. Besides, the boys and myself benefit greatly from the physical activity. It's also become a bit of a opportunity for them and me to circle up so to speak.

I digress.

Up till now our mauls, or I should say my maul was some ancient eight pounder that I can find no mark on. It swung true enough and split its share over the years without much in the way of bellyaching.

My eldest son was growing out of his 6 as of last fall and recognizing he would be swinging the 8 I bequeathed my old beast and placed an order for a Wetterlings Splitting Maul with a 32" handle and head weight of 5.5 pounds. Now I grew up in Appalachia backwods, men therein swung 6 and 8 pound mauls and not axes. I figure this was mostly because of all the gnarly red and white oak we burned and while there was probably some Swedish badass who could split that wood with a 3.5 to 5# axe none of us ever met the SOB. So mauls is what we were raised on and what I've always used. Going to a 5.5# maul made my oldest boy wisecrack about his ol'man gettin wizened, I just grinned and wore it at the time.

Then the package from Bailey's arrived and we went to work.

Here in the north woods we don't have oak, 'bout the toughest tree we split is wind twisted maple. Nonetheless, wind twisted old maple can be a bit of work especially if it isn't frozen.

I'm happy to say I'm not an ol'man wizened up as my wise crackin' son would suggest? I split circles around them with this thing and didn't burn near the energy I used to. This Ol'man got a brand new bag, er maul as it were.

Without a doubt the fit and finish on this is better than the last three axes I've bought from Wetterlings, I will say that in a decade and a half I've not had a bad one though I hear folks seem to be getting bad pieces these days.

I'm rather pleased with this maul, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to those who still split with one.