28 August 2013

Mercury Rising, 'Fish Singing' & Old Canvas

Unseasonably warm would be an understatement. It simply doesn't get this hot here very often, most of my summer has been similar to prior summers, mild to cool. In fact the average day time temps through the hottest months of summer for my area is July and August at 66 and 65 degrees, that's right, mid 60s in July and August is the average. So when  the mercury cracked into the 90s and the heat advisory went into effect I rounded up the family and headed to a small lake in the north county. I'd like to say it helped, and maybe it helped to distract us a little but the heat was dang near overwhelming to tell the truth. I know, I know, low 90s is nothing compared to most of the rest of the country but it is nearly a 30 degree move from what we are used to.

Thus we found ourselves on a small north country lake, canoes in the water and old canvas for shelter.

This was the view from the left rear of the old tent, which was made in Duluth Minnesota back in the mid to late 1940s. It's stamped with some of the locations it's been to, like the Annual Scout Retreat in 1956 and the Apostle Islands in 1960 to name a few. Patches in places, wearing a little thin in others, still keeping its occupants dry though, as we would all experience a strong series of storms on the first night.

Like I said, it was hot and hot not like Minnesota hot, I mean like south east United States hot where I grew up. Just nasty humid dead air stuff, and in those conditions I knew the fish wouldn't be biting. Nonetheless the boys got the canoes in the water and paddled off to try some late afternoon angling.

My old battle worn and water weary canoe is still being paddled across the lakes of Northern Minnesota these many years later.

Meanwhile my youngest boy was disappointed that he couldn't see the fish he felt were or should have been there. Can't you just see the disappointment?

Well, once he'd expressed his disappointment in the lack of fish or other aquatic creatures to play with, he elected to 'sing the fish up', apparently he's more in tune with his Celtic ancestry than I am; and some ancient ability to sing the fish to shore and thus his 'singing to the fish' began.

Sadly, it didn't work, or maybe it did and my ineptitude with rod and reel when my patience is lacking due to the heat resulted in dead worms but no fish. He was fine though, as he was soon distracted by a dragonfly that needed catching.

And so I put the rod away and worked on camp, getting ready for nightfall and dinner, before I did I started to notice the auto-focus drive on my camera was slipping and not hitting, it would just grind away and never find focus. Camera is pushing three years old now and I know for a fact it's had over 25,000 images taken as that's how many images are in my files since I purchased the camera, so sadly the days of this Pentax K-x might be numbered.

I finally got to bust out two of my four Coleman lanterns, ordinarily I don't pack them as I rarely camp where I have an opportunity at having such luxuries in camp. Normally I'm much lighter and more of a minimalist when it comes to camp gear. In this case I splurged and too the old '65 and the newer version out, oddly enough, the '65 puts out just as much light as the new model and consumes fuel at about the same rate it seems to me.

 Of course Caiden had to assist with inspection and set up, the dragonfly long forgotten.

A lone loon spent most of the late afternoon and evening on the lake about a hundred and fifty yards off shore of our camp. Later in the night and early the next morning a series of loon calls fell through the little lake valley, a haunting sound that has always had an odd affect on me.

If you've never heard a loon calling take a listen to this video, it isn't mine but it is one of the best I've heard in that so many of the loon's vocalizations are heard in the short 49 seconds.

As sundown came on the lake became glass, a looking glass for the sky above.

The camera at this point began to really fall down. I had the big 70-300mm lens on and I believe she just gave up. I switched back to the 28-80mm but there was only a small improvement.

Dinner was pork chops over an open fire, some foil wrapped vegetables rounding it out. No pics though, unfortunately. I did fiddle with the camera and dropped another lens size, down to the 18-55mm and got it working enough to get a few more images. A new camera now on the top of my mental list.

That was about it for the camera and it is a shame really, that pentax has documented much of the past three years of my outdoor life, lot of miles and memories. I couldn't get it to record either and this really bummed me out for we were treated to one of the greatest light and sound shows I have seen in the wild. The heat lightening and thunder began just as darkness settled, we could see it and hear it a long way off. About four hours after dark the lightening intensified, the wind came ripping through the pines and across the lake. A deafening roar and the storm was upon us with a vengeance. We watched from inside the old canvas tent, the front doors opened wide to receive the cool stiff wind coming off the water. There was no pause in the lightening, full dark never reached because another jagged bolt consumed the darkness leaving only white eye searing jolts. The rain came hard and fast and at times sideways, through it all that old canvas stood like some soldier on a wall, stalwart and stoic, taking in whatever was being dished out. And thus the night was spent.

The next morning I coaxed one more picture from my old Pentax, and perhaps one of her finest. The lake at peace after the night's roaring drama, fog gently rising from the warmer than air waters. A stillness fit to soothe a man's heart and soul.

Old Cleaver Gets a New Handle

A couple years ago I executed a trade in which I received an old cleaver, at the time I was all fired up to modify it but like many other things, it ended in a drawer and work took over my life.

Fast forward until around April of this year when I handed the cleaver off to a friend of mine to make a custom handle for it, and man o man did he do an outstanding job!

I've known Jeff for a number of years but it wasn't until earlier this year that I became aware of his creative wood working talents and capabilities. Known for his sense of humor I found that he wears a goalie mask while turning wood on his lathe, the reason for that was a comedic tale while worth the telling, I'll preserve Jeff's adventurous mishap as a private conversation.

Jeff chose to use walnut and whitetail deer antler for the handle, and went so far as to get the grip sized right as well as the swell on the right side for a right handed user. I could go on and on about how satisfied I am with his work but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Jeff absolutely nailed what I was looking for, I couldn't be happier with his work. In addition to the handle he went above and beyond and did a little something extra for me, he hand carved the detail work in the cross below, another example of just how talented Jeff is.

I told Jeff that I'd post this and would forward on anyone who wanted to pursue a project with Jeff. So for anyone who does, you can use me as the point of contact. Jeff's a very creative and talented individual capable of a lot of different things. I wouldn't hesitate to work with him.

20 August 2013

Update on the wood shed

A little bit ago I posted about a Wetterlings splitting maul and there were some pictures of my woodshed back then, that was July and I've not had a lot of time to add to it but we've managed to fill it as of this past weekend.

Shed is 24' wide, 14' deep and the stacks are 7' high, doing the traditional math that's 2,352 cubic feet and when divided by the common cord requirement of 128cf it would appear I'm sitting on over eighteen cords of wood. Been figuring around 6 or 7 cords a winter on average, though that shot up to 12 cords in a winter once but the quality of that wood wasn't the greatest.

Well here's the shed as of the end of the weekend, packed to the gills mostly. I'm breathing easier these days as not only is this done, but I've got about this much more again seasoning in the back. I've given up my old ways of cutting in the fall. I wait for winter and snow now, cut the old logging road open and skid everything out with the wheeler. No fuss no muss, no heat no bugs, no big crowns to deal with, nope, heck of a lot cleaner and I get the true meaning of wood heats twice, once when you process and once when you burn.

There's a certain satisfaction standing in this shed, the kind that comes from good clean work done for yourself by yourself. Nothing quite like it to be found anywhere else, least that's been my experience.

Hope your winter preps are as far along as you want them!

19 August 2013

The Fast & The Forager

I snuck out late this afternoon, yes, I used the word 'snuck' which apparently isn't a word, at least according to Blogger's spell check. Bleh, 'snuck' has been in this southern man living in the north wood's lexicon for as long as I can remember, and there it will remain. So with the short hand drifting past the four o'clock mark I grabbed the youngest boy and out the door I went.

Two, well three things had me itchin to go. One is our raspberries are exploding off the bushes, that's in and of itself is plenty reason enough, but also because I wanted to use a new foraging bag, and finally because youngest son loves bustin' the berry bushes and talking to the birds as he eats his way down the path. Finer entertainment cannot be had, especially when the birds seem to be talking back.

Our raspberries came in a couple weeks ago but they come in phases so we've had nice big fat juicy berries for a while, and like my pin cherry trees there's gobs and gobs of them. Right now if you tap them they'll fall into the palm of your hand, this is when I like them best and so too, do the bears.

Note the flattened area where a bear had laid up during and after gorging on berries and cherries.

 I could see clear bear trails throughout the bushes and in fact I found several places where they'd bedded down while they gorged themselves. I also found some pin cherry trees they'd pushed over and just absolutely stripped them bare. Our backwoods are pretty thick right now and saying I was more than a little leery of the fact that there was obvious bear activity where the boy and I were picking would be a bit of an understatement.

Also found a log the bear had been at, digging out whatever critters were inside.

Never the less we would not be deterred!

With not a lot of time I'd only planned on gathering a quart of raspberries which brings me to the part about a new foraging bag. This handy dandy little belt pouch is the bees knees. Made of leather and waxed canvas it folds flat for belt carry and it's perfect sized to hold a quart mason jar.

As you can see it doesn't take up a lot of space on the belt but when you unfold it there's plenty of room for whatever you're foraging, or container of choice. It'll hold a 32oz nalgene or jar no problem.

And so we went, merrily picking and eating, me trying to keep up with the boy as we went until he'd eaten his fill and I'd gotten what I came for.

This is a shot of the set up riding on my belt as I picked.

If you're interested in one of the pouches they are made by a fell who goes by billybass on the BushcraftUSA forums, you can find more information here.

Pretty handy and Backwoods Bum Approved!