Wednesday, August 31, 2016


so they took the guy who was the most surly, lazy, shifty stock boy at the grocery store and decided to make him a cashier. which job he is competent and polite.

some things cannot be explained.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


ok, so on the venture challenge it says Make a rope out of natural plant fiber (10 pts), but of course i couldn't just make a little cordage and call it a day.

because if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.

so i had to learn all about natural fiber cordage. i gathered daylilly leaved. i gathered stringy bark. i gathered milkweed. just for the record, your bathtub is not the ideal location for retting milkweed. or anything, really.

i made cord from daylilly, from milkweed, from corn silk, from corn husk, and tried to make it out of knotweed.

daylilly makes a lovely strong cord that is easy to work with. corn silk (i only did this casually) makes a soft stringy cord that dries to a loose rope. you could maybe turn it into something with a little effort. corn HUSKS are difficult to work with, but the cord they make is strong and pliable. milkweed makes a nice fuzzy grey cord, and actually maybe i am going to learn to make and use a drop spindle to work with those fibers.

knotweed is not well-suited for cordage, i don't think.

and only tangentially related, check this out:

Monday, August 29, 2016

tour of site seven

i stayed for two weeks on remote site seven, which is lovely.

here's your tour.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

tarp clips

here's a gear review. in the spirit of full disclosure, i will say that i was not given any of these, and nobody requested me to do a review.

i bought these things because they were pretty cheap and had the potential to be useful.

i love them.

these things.

view at amazon. sure.

sometimes when i put up two tarps to make one big tarp the grommets don't line up exactly where i need them to to make the whole thing trim. ok, not sometimes. every damn time. and i considered it just the cost of doing business. but then i saw these things in a sidebar while i was looking for some other camping supplies and they weren't expensive so i said "what the heck?" and bought some.

they worked pretty well under moderately high winds just clipped on regular, but after about ten days with high gusts, the tarp pulled out, a situation that was easily remedied by making a little roll in the tarp. you could put a little stick in there if you wanted.

or you could just put it back up again. whatever.

anyway, they are cheap, durable, and very handy. and your anchor point is never in the wrong place again.

yeah, yeah, i know you can sort of do the same thing with a marble and some cord, but i like these things.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

food cooked on a campfire

i'm kind of lazy when it comes to camp cooking. i am not so much in love with sitting by a fire unless it's necessary to stay warm and it gets dark early, and i really need only an hour or so of cooking time if i'm going to bake a potato, but that involves an hour or so of building a fire, so if you want to eat a baked potato at five, you'd best stop whatever else it was you were doing and start building your fire around three, and that can be a hassle.

by the same token, roast sweet corn is one of the chief pleasures of life, but you have to have good coals for your five minutes of actual cooking.

recently i discovered fire roasted eggplant. the articles i was seeing on the interwebs all involved eggplant on your grill at home, but i didn't see any reason you couldn't toss a whole eggplant next to a fire and turn it occasionally until the outer skin was charred, which turns out is the traditional way to do it because SO easy.

fire roasted eggplant is delicious. you cut open the charred shell and scoop out the lovely smoky cooked insides. i ate mine plain and i ate the leftovers mixed with some salt and cider vinegar. you could bring tahini and make baba ganoush.

anyway, delicious. and easy. that's what i like.

Friday, August 26, 2016

little boat

on the venture challenge it says Build a boat out of materials you find outside. See if it floats (10 pts). last year i built more than one.

this year i built a thing designed to really float. i wove a cattail mat for the decking, and used dried knotweed lashed together with cordage i made from corn husks as the frame. i caulked the ends of the knotweed with pine pitch.

i made it a twitter account, in case people who found it afloat were inclined to report its sighting.

then i went up and released it from the place where i said i would.

what followed was more or less three days of heavy storms and high winds, so i do not believe it survived long, but clearly, it does float.

eight days later, i found floating on the res the remains of a little boat, made of knotweed. the lashing was different than mine.

the cord did not appear to be handmade corn husk, and none of the ends had pine caulking.

not my boat, but similar fate, probably. and yes, still floating.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

this conversation happened, more or less

me: ok, now tell me that you are especially attracted to women who have unloaded the boats from their cars.
MB: I am especially attracted to YOU
me: that's all fine and dandy, but it doesn't give me any incentive to go unload my boats.
MB: oh, well then Ooooh! I love women who unload their boats... so sexy
me: is it espectially attractive if i put a bike rack on and load a bike?
MB: YES!!!!!
me: ok! maybe later you can tell me about your newly discovered fetish for clean camping gear and folded laundry.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

i stepped out.

yeah, i was posting pretty regularly.

and then alla sudden i decided to go camping for a couple of weeks.

my campsite is very, very beautiful.

here is a view from it yesterday morning.

Friday, August 12, 2016

unsolicited advice

yesterday i was on my way into the waterman building and i saw a young woman struggling up a few small stairs on crutches.

"are you new to those things?"
"it shows, doesn't it?", she said.

i told her that as a kid i had spent a lot of time on crutches and i showed her how to hold them in one hand and use the handrail to make stairs easier.

"wow." she said. "thanks."

Thursday, August 11, 2016


a couple of weeks ago apparently it was motling season for some spiders out on the res.

the first one i noticed was up at the outhouse.

"wow, that's a big spider", i said to myself.

then "a big dead spider.."

then "wow. it's just the molted exoskeleton!" so i picked it up to look at it.

originally i assumed it was some kind of wolf spider, but then when i was trying to identify it, i learned that the first thing you do identifying spiders (aside from safety considerations like "is it dangerous?" because all spiders are venomous to a degree, but few are deadly to humans)

uh, anyway..

i learned that the first thing you check for is eye configuration, and this spider could not have been any of the wold spiders based on that, but it might have been a nursery spider of some sort.

i learn things all the time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


the listing on the venture challenge is Build your own musical instrument and play it outside. a rubber band tissue box guitar like we used to make when i was a kid would have done just fine, i guess. but the best way to do the challenge, i think, is to do things in a new way, and maybe learn something.

i had every intention of making a little whistle from willow twigs or knotweed stems or something while i was out camping, because camping represents for me an excellent  way to practice crafts that only leave a mess in my living room.

but then i was cutting up some firewood and i had a maple sapling i found down and dried and when i clunked pieces together i noticed they had a pleasing timbre.

so i thought maybe i could make a few pitched bars and maybe make a woodchime to hang in some trees and that would be nice.

and then while i was doing THAT i noticed that i could pitch the bars pretty accurately so then i thought i might make some kind of hangin xylophone with a pentatonic scale. why not? it's only five bars, right?

so THEN while i was working on pitching those bars (which i had to learn how to do by trial and error) i started getting notes that were NOT in my pentatonic scale, but they were in the diatonic major scale, so the next thing i knew i was only a bar or two short of a full octave and a sixth, which is the standard range of the classroom instruments used in the orff-schulwerk.

and then i noticed that placed on the ground they were more resonant than hanging, so i revised my plan and found a half hollow log that i could cut and modify to make a resonating chamber for the bars.

by the time two weeks was up and i had to go home, it was pretty decent, although i had not yet solved the problem of how to hold the bars in place and not dampen their resonance.

anyway, here are some pictures. i am disappointed with the video, because for reasons i cannot explain the the sound quality strips all the nice resonance from the sound of the bars and all you get it the clicking. this may be because of the positioning of the camera, or that the stool i had it propped on had a dampening effect, but either way i do not have a satisfactory recording of how this thing sounded.

i left it in the woods, of course i did.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

hoover and beelzebub

at my last campsite, my first visitors were chipmunks. i thought that was maybe going to be a problem.

and then the red squirrels showed up.

red squirrels are little assholes.

here is my conversation with the chipmunk:

hi! whatcha doin'? 
i'm carving.
is that food? do you have food? OMG you know how much i like food. 
no, it is not food.
are ya sure you're not having food? 
pretty sure, yep.
do ya mind if i just check? 
help yourself.
i'll just hop up here and look if that's ok with you. 
not in my lap, ok, that's weird.
ok, NOW do ya have food? 
no. i am reading.
are ya sure? 
yep, reading. no food.
imma just hang out with you here for a while, ok? 
in case there's gonna be food. 
that is food.
yes it is. it is MY food.
hey, wait! just because YOU'RE done eating that corncob doesn't mean all the food is gone. 
you are welcome to it.

and here is the red squirrel:

ha, you little  SOB, i moved the food and hung it up.

this conversation was truncated because suddenly the squirrel heard another squirrel a hundred feet away or so and had to run off and fight it. while it was gone, the chipmunk came back and ate whatever crumbs had been dropped.

so clearly, the chipmunk is the animal you WANT cleaning up your dropped bits, because the chipmunk just politely takes what there is and doesn't chew through your bags.

so by day three the chipmunks and i had a partnership. i timed my food prep (which usually involved some spilled oatmeal flakes or food fragments left on foil) to coincide with when the squirrels were off trying to kill each other. the chipmunk would come in like a little vacuum and clean up the site so nothing was left for the squirrel, whom i had named beelzebub.


Monday, August 08, 2016

should have looked there first

i am learning to juggle. of course becuase "juggle three pinecones" is on the list.

sure. i'll spend four months learning to juggle.

i can almost do it, too, except juggling pinecones presents its own set of difficulties, and i was practicing doing that when i dropped my cones.

no biggie, right? you pick them up.

only sometimes they bounce in directions you don't expect and are behind things, or they roll under furniture.

so i spent a half hour looking for this one pinecone and it had apparently vanished. i looked in the closet, under the sofa, behind the desk, and a few places it would have been nearly impossible for the pinecone to have gone.

and then i found it.


Sunday, August 07, 2016


it wouldn't be the first time i wrote a note to a park ranger, so i feel a little ambivalent about writing a thank-you note to a park ranger because it happens to be on the list.

but ok. so i wrote to the park manager at niquette bay state park, which is one of our lovelier and lesser-known state parks because i have very much enjoyed her work in that park.

then, just because, i wrote to chad the floating ranger out of little river state park. "floating ranger" is not meant as it often does that he floats from park to park or job to job, but that he is the ranger ON THE WATER, in a boat. floating.

he helps keep the reservoir safe and clean.


there you have it.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

this conversation happened, more or less.

mb: are you seriously judging my fashion choices?

me: yes.

mb: I am impressed with your moxie


Friday, August 05, 2016

detailed camp menu

there is a real difference between your detailed camp menu and what you actually eat at camp, especially if you are camping alone and doubly so if you are staying more than a day or so.

because "oh, is it raining too hard to bother with a fire?" means no baked potato tonight.

anyway, there's an item on the challenge to Prepare a detailed camp menu for your camping (10 pts), so i thought i'd give it a go.

day 1:

(2 meals)

graze only (sandwich meat, assorted fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and crackers)

day 2:

breakfast: breakfast beverage
2d breakfast: overnight oatmeal
lunch: graze
dinner: stuffed mushroom caps, baked potato, roasted corn

day 3:

breakfast: breakfast beverage
2d breakfast: oatmeal
lunch: graze
dinner: lasagna (foil packets), baked potato, corn

day 4:

(original plan)
breakfast: beverage
2d breakfast: oatmeal
lunch: graze, with avocado halves and italian dressing
dinner: stuffed mushroom caps, corn, potato

(what actually happened)
breakfast: beverage
2d breakfast: oatmeal
lunch: your friend arrives with box sushi and chips.  woohoo!
dinner: too tired to think about it. stuff two slices of salami and some cheese in your mouth and call it good.

days 5 -12:

some meals get cooked, but maybe you have roasted corn at three in the afternoon and a baked potato at six. maybe you forget to eat second breakfast until early afternoon. maybe you've just lost the discipline of mealtimes and eat whatever you have the energy for  if you happen to feel hungry. nobody's waiting for you for dinner. relax, dude. you're not starving, not by a long shot.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

one quiet morning

on the venture challenge it says Sit outside for thirty minutes and write down every sound you hear (10 pts).

i did this one one of the other years, and the hardest part about it was finding a relatively bug-free time to do that.

but when i am out camping on the res, i find myself just sitting and listening a LOT, if not writing lists. it's like, the thing i do every morning.

so one fine day i was sitting in my chair in the morning and my paper for writing was nearby, so i figured it would be a good time to so this.

now, often on the res there are a lot of things to listen to; there are water noises and wind noises and the noises of boaters and campers but this particular morning was unusually still, and maybe because of atmospheric conditions sound was dampened, because there were things i could see (for instance a passing paddler) whose paddle strokes i would have been able to hear on most days, but on this day were silent and so are not on the list.

bit of a surprise, really.


waterbury reservoir
0700 friday 22 july 2016

00:00 assorted unidentified bird noises that continue
00:59 blue jay
01:22 hummingbird
02:04 red squirrel rustling leaves
03:16 chickadee call
04:20 chickadee song
04:46 red squirrel call / boat put in across lake
05:14 chickadee song
05:45 chickadee call
08:11 plane overhead (high)
08:38 chickadee call
10:58 pine needles falling
12:26 red squirrel call
12:43 red squirrel climbing tree
15:55 distant traffic
20:41 bullfrog
21:14 distant truck traffic
22:11 creak of my shoe
24:15 distant road noise
25:41 pine needles falling on tarp
26:14 overhead aircraft
27:35 red eyed vireo
29:46 red squirrel call (mid-distance)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

hammock weaving

so last fall i decided that this winter i should make a paracord hammock, because that would be really sweet on a campsite.

so i had to learn how to do it.

i looked at a lot of youtube videos, but i settled on this method because i liked the idea of a weave instead of knotting, which has less flexibility and involves more cord cutting.

that thing about cutting is really, really important because if you don't really know how to do this, you may have to make several tries (i needed five) and the less you cut up your cord the more you can reuse it.

first i had to learn to make decent chain sinnet, which is that border chain the guy uses. so that took a while. probably on another post?) THEN i had to figure out how to make a jig in my basement, and instead of this guy's fancy setup, i went with nails in a half-finished wall.

also duct tape.

no matter how much you watch this guy's video, it take a while to understand HOW to turn the rows and how the whole thing is supposed to come together.

i got the hang of it, though.

sinnet hanging on wall
closeup of sinnet
first row getting laced in
there was a lot of this.

about to come off the jig
this is how it hangs

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

one match fire

ok, ok, last year making a fire with no matches was on the list. i don't remember if i did that one or not, but i remember i did the year before, with a hand lens.

and the last fall i found some spiffy magnesium strikers and stuff and i was all set, but this year the item on the list (you all KNOW what list) reads Build a fire only using one match (10 pts).

so i did that. it meant i had to find some matches, and you know what? a lot of those little suckers break right off, so the hard part is NOT getting your fire to light with the one match (which is easy if you lay it right) but not breaking the match off or wearing off the burny part before you get it struck.

anyway, i did it.

Monday, August 01, 2016

bad year for sumacs

it's a bad year for staghorn sumac in my neighborhood.

or rather, it was a good year and they produced lots and lots of pretty red berries but it was also a good year for cedar waxwings, who like to eat those berries, so in the aggregate total the sumacs got left with NONE.


Related Posts with Thumbnails