Start Diet and Workouts in Bubba’s Real World

Good Afternoon World,

Well, as promised I would let the world all in on my diet and lifestyle changes here on our attempt at a self-sufficient homestead. As well, I am going to go and make a couple rants – maybe someday I can look back and see it either I was, or they were, correct.

In relation to working out here on the farm, I previously mentioned that I have downloaded an App that motivates an individual to train up to one hundred push-ups. That is one area that I want to work on as bodyweight endurance and power exercises are an area where I know that I need improvement. It will be beneficial both in allowing for greater work potential but also for the added health improvements. I am happy to report that since my last date I have been disciplined enough to complete the stages of the workout as required and I think that I am already beginning to see that the repetitions are becoming easier even when maintaining strict form. Today is a day off from that but back to it tomorrow.

The other main workout portions of the last couple of days have involved the pitchfork and shovel starting the spring cleaning out the pig pen and wheelbarrow to get this outstanding mixture onto where one of our new gardens is going to be started early this summer. By getting this manure out and onto the snow before it melts off will allow the nutrients contained within to be released into the soil with sufficient time for them to be ready to feed the soil. If I was not able to get it out now, I would have to pile it up to age before  being moved to the garden. This is especially important with the chicken and turkey manure because if applied fresh to the garden the concentration of nitrogen contained within can have disastrous effects on the plants. Besides the fork and shovel work I also accomplished some hammer and saw workout by building some new nest boxes and roosts for the chickens – I will have to do an article in the near future on how I built these out of all recycles materials.

Two lifestyle changes that we have made have appeared to be beneficial. I did not hide the fact that I suffer from some mental illness and because of the depression I experience one of my means of escape previously has been sleep. When asleep I don’t have to deal with the stress and anxiety issues. The first change is that I have begun to set an alarm so that I get no more than eight hours of sleep (in the past I could easily go 14 plus hours in bed). It many sound counterintuitive, but now that I am getting less sleep I have more motivation to get things done around here and the time to do it. The extra time has been occasionally stressful but I expect that eventually the positives will be more evident.

The second big change is that, as a family we decided to adjust the thermostat in the home. Instead of the regular room temperature of around 21 degrees Celsius, we now have it set at 15 and hope to get lower. It surprisingly doesn’t take the body long to adjust and there are many benefits to this change. First is financial – lower temp means that amount of oil consumed by the furnace is significantly reduced plus the electricity required to operate the heating system lessened. Secondly, the lower temperature causes the body to burn a great number of calories in its effort to maintain a constant core temperature.  This is one of the two things required to lose weight – burn more calories.

Diet Book Complaint(s)

Really, what is the deal with all of these books and diets that are advertised? They all seem to promise that you will have that smokin’ hot body without any effort because they have this secret that nobody else has figured out so “call now, operators are standing by” infomercial felling. My previous post mentioned Kevin Trudeau’s book, which on the back claims that it is “…an all natural and effortless method that works for everyone…a lean, sexy body in just 30 days…”

Time to throw the BS flag on that! Reading the book shows how false and misleading this is. “All natural” but he is requiring the injection of hormones on a consistent bases in addition to various nutritional supplements, plus the regular use of colonics. Maybe it is just me, but having water pumped up inside my ass doesn’t seem to be very natural! As for his “effortless method”, I guess as long as you have time for walking a minimum of an hour a day, daily sauna and yoga, resistance training, use a trampoline daily, eat six times per day and get massages. Not only does that seem to be the exact opposite of effortless, but no one that I know could financially afford these demands but who has that much time?

Last complaint for today – every read the suggested diets some propose? First as a farmer doing things by hand, half a cup of yogurt sprinkled with granola just aint gonna cut it! Plus, unless you are a chef that lives between a market and health-food  store that can shop everyday, where are you going to find the time to prepare all of these special menus? We need some reality.

Well stay safe everyone and wish me luck with this next workout. Time to carry some water buckets out to the critters.

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Weightloss and Fitness for Survival and Farming

Good Afternoon World,

So here we go in a new direction with my blog and hope that this new category will be of interest to those of you out there with some of the same issues as I am dealing with in my survival and bushcrafting preparation.

The purpose of putting this out there is fairly simple. For quite some time (like pretty much as far back as being a pre-teen  almost forty years ago!) keeping my weight at a reasonable level has been a challenge. During university days I played varsity football on the Offensive line and with all the time in the weight room I had gone from about 170lbs to over 220lbs in less than four years. This was greatly praised by Rejean, my coach, but in terms of cardio and endurance I was definitely beginning to be affected in a negative manner. A severe back injury and dislocated left shoulder not only ended my football playing days but within a year I found myself out of shape, depressed and not only kicked out of Military College but also the Canadian Armed Forces. It was only due to the fact that the Commandant of the school, later to be Senator Romeo D’Allaire, hand wrote a recommendation on my paperwork that allowed me to continue my military career after some time away but that, as they say, is a different story. So let us get back to the topic at hand.

One thing that is not often discussed in most survival manuals is fitness. I suppose that initially this was due to the fact that when survival manuals were few and far between, most were written as guides for military personnel to give them information before being deployed to hostile, unfamiliar environments such as the jungle or the Arctic. The group, in fact the initial group of true survival schools, were formed to educate members of the Air Force since it was determined at some basic survival training for the aircrew increased their confidence and ability to return to duty at a higher rate than those that did not receive any such training. The common factor, even for air force guys (!) is that they are generally at the time young male adults in higher than average fitness than the remainder of the population.

So, there I was, reading a diet book that my good friend, banker and also a prepper “gifted” to me…actually it was in a bag of burnable items that he sent for my woodstove and I thought I would have a look at it to see why it was that Peter wanted to get rid of this item. It turned out to have some pretty good ideas, and some that I have started to implement, but other things sent up all kinds of red flags. The book, Kevin Trudeau’s “Weight Loss Cure ‘they’ don’t want you to know about” read a lot like the induction ceremonies either into a cult or the political left-wing. He claimed to have been a billionaire insider of something called the “Brotherhood” that tried to keep everything from weight loss to the cure for disease from general knowledge for the simple motivation of power and money. A quick search-engine check determined that Mr. Trudeau is currently in jail for repeated fraud charges BUT the book did at least get me thinking. So I started checking out some of the other reference material in my library and discovered definitively the aforementioned issue of it not being a regular component of survival literature.

To sum this up into a short article, I hope to make this a very regular portion of my blog, not only to stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle but also to add more research into this as I continue with my new goal of getting back into shape and improving my level of fitness. I am hoping that not only can I inspire someone to come along with me on this journey, but I am also hoping that any feedback that I receive will continue to motivate me in the upcoming hard times and setbacks – if anyone reading this has tried before they can understand what I mean by hard times and setbacks!

To get things rolling and so that I have something to compare to in the future, here is where I am at the beginning:

46 years old and about 231 pounds

Measurements are

  1. chest – 52″
  2. waist – 42″
  3. Quads – 25″
  4. calves – 18″
  5. biceps – 16.5″

I have started an App called “one hundred pushups” which I have been using for a couple days and it shows how far I have fallen from the glory days!  One of my big fitness plans for when the snow goes is that I am going to attempt to hand dig a root cellar this summer in our heavy clay and rock soil and we do much of our farming the old way – shovel, rake, scythe, pitchfork and hoe are some of out main pieces of equipment.

So now the journey begins. When I am less embarrassed I will let you all know that the maximum pushups I did for the test was only 14 but “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Wish me luck!!

A Confession, an Apology, Update and Question

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Good Afternoon World,

As you can see, winter still has the farm in her tight, cold grasp and does not appear to desire to let go any time in the near future. Normally during the season of the dying that there would be a lot of opportunity to sit back by the fire and keep up with a steady stream of articles for Bubba Rempart’s blog and you would be mostly correct if this was an ideal world full of rainbows, lollypops, sparkles and puppy dogs.  That, unfortunately is not the situation in which I find myself…. First off, this is a small homestead where we attempt to live the most ecologically and economical viable as possible.  Without the equipment on hand for mechanized snow removal, nor the financial capability to invest in this form of capital expenditure, the driveway that is just to the left in the above photograph still requires to be fully cleared. Thus, to allow passage and parking for the clients to my lovely wife’s home spa, Bubba is forces to spend anywhere from an hour up to four or five with shovel in hand. This might seem like I am complaining, and maybe I am in some way, but there are also benefits believe it or not. Although I have observed no change in the numbers on the bathroom scale, I have been required to punch a new hole into my leather belt, which at the short side of fifty is a big plus. Plus there is the added benefit of having plenty of opportunity to ponder various topics of interest during the repetitive physical activity; both  positive and negative situation depending of what else is going on with life at that time. All of that is my way of justification both to myself and hopefully the handful of people that take a look at my blog on a regular basis for not being more prolific in publishing articles. For this I do offer an apology, and when I get the to actual confession portion of this update that will lead to a greater understanding.

The update time! Christmas tree season came and I consider it to have been a great success. For those not in the know, I married into the business – my wife was born and raised in Lunenburg County Nova Scotia which calls itself the “Christmas Tree Capital” of, I believe, either Canada or the world. Either way, we receive a transport truck load at the end of November and spend the next few weeks delivering trees to various local organizations that sell them off as a means of fundraising. By this we are able to support many of the local Animal Shelters in providing for the critters. As an aside, believe it or not that every year we have had some of the Christmas trees actually STOLEN from outside the shelters. One of the workers there asked me during one of my deliveries what would we do if the theft was detected. I stated that it was my belief that nothing I could do would be as severe as the Karmatic repercussions of stealing from puppies at Christmas.

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When the trees were done the last of the turkeys destined for the freezer were finally completed, a straw bale shelter built for the remaining turkeys and rabbits. For additional shelters, in the top photo the teepee looking contraptions are just that, teepees. Here is another one with a couple of the bunnies enjoying the sun of a cold winter afternoon.

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After trimming off the branches of unsold Christmas trees, the trunks were tied together at the top in the form of the teepee with some old straw bale twine. Next, using a staple gun, old empty feed sacks became the outside skin of the teepee. This was done similar to how shingles would be laid; starting at the bottom with the next row up slightly overlapped to allow for water (rain) to flow downward unobstructed. Finally another layer of “the bones of Christmas trees past” were simply placed against the outside which stopped the wind from being able to remove the feed sacks but also had the unexpected benefit of allowing the snow greater purchase to build up and provide insulation during the snowy days, thus adding in the comfort of the remaining furry/feathery friends. Between the straw bales and teepees we must have been doing something right because although the numbers were not excessive, we have added a few baby rabbits to the colony. In fact, a brand new one popped out from underground just this morning! Not bad since we are almost March and there are no days forecasted in the next two weeks that are predicted to rise above the freezing mark. One other great addition (two actually) to our set up is Big Pig and Little Pig!

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Yes, that actually is their names! My wife was afraid if they had names that she would get too attached to them like she did the ducks – Susie Q and Zorro now can tap on the patio doors when they want their daily bread! So Big and Little it is.  They are a cross between the breeds Tamworth and Berkshire. thus the black and reddish polka dots. Okay, I have to admit it, I love the little buggers. I can go out and sit in their pen for an hour and just play with them and scratch behind their ears. In fact, I call them my little “piggy puppies” which I am pretty sure causes a bit of jealousy in Bentley (the big Brindle Boxer in my profile picture) but he is just going to have to put up with them for the next couple months. Besides the future bacon, Big and Little also have a future job to do on the farm. The top photo, once it is snow free, is going to be a future garden. The fencing was built last spring and since June 2014 there have been numerous rabbits, chickens and four turkeys named (Lulu, Lemmon, Abercrombie and Finch) have cohabitated who not only have enjoyed the green plants growing within but also contributed generously a significant amount of nitrogen rich manure to the area. This coming spring a new enclosure will be constructed and the furry/feathery friends moved to enjoy this new location. Big and Little will then have the great pleasure of having free run of this 20k square to root around and tear apart the straw structure while at the same time adding their own nitrogen rich contribution. These piggy rototillers will have fun getting this garden ready for the hot peppers , tomatoes etc. that Christina has already started in trays that cover a goodly percentage to the horizontal surfaces in the sunny locations of our home. How does all of this relate to Bushcraft and Survival? Besides the obvious increase in food-security we also have improved or food production capabilities for the future and should it be required there is also potential fuel sources with the Christmas trees to heat our home. Additionally the skills to not only raise but also house and protect the animals have been beneficial in using resources that would otherwise be less productive (the feed sacks) and overall provided a lesson in improvisation to all members of the family. To quote the country music artist Collin Raye “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”

Now it’s time for my confession, at least as far as I am concerned. I hope that this does not cause some readers to question my judgment particularly when it comes to my opinion on knife reviews because as I have said repeatedly in the past that I have a passion for sharp  metal objects. Althought for quite some time I tried to hide it and deny it, which caused it to be undiagnosed nor treated, the fact is that for many years I have been suffering from Mental Illness. I am not ready to get into an explaination as to the root causes, at least not yet, but to be more specific I am battling the following: Severe anxiety and depression as well as PTSD and in the past some Panic Attacks. After a lot of self-reflection I can see that this has been something coming on for quite some time now and like most things, such as losing weight, the problem takes time and effort to solve; there is no such thing as a quick fix. Medication can and will in the short term to mask some of the symptoms but the long term solution has to come from a lifestyle change. One of the other side-effects of the symptoms of my issues is that in order to deal with (hide from actually) many people, myself included, turn to self-medication, be it either alcohol or drugs. in my case it was sleeping medication as the longer I slept the less time I had to be awake and deal with the issues that were troubling me. So…how is this related to Bushcraft and Survival? I am not a medical professional, but one thing that I can testify to as being greatly beneficial is not only the fact that I can hide out from the world here on my little farm but the animals and physical labour allows me to see that in nature, everything occurs for a reason and how that the little things that are done can have great long term effects on the entire system. Additionally, when out in the bush the little things, like achieving fire from a spark created by striking a steel on a rock I just found onto char cloth that I mad myself, can be satisfying and the time spent just sitting by the fire helps in relieving stress. To further this, I have discussed with the professionals that I see reference to this matter, that actually just spending time in the evening sitting in front of the woodstove in the house and starring into the fire is like a form of meditation and allows the modern mind to reach back in time to connect with the instincts of our ancient ancestors. It is comforting to think that sitting by the fire and sharpening by puukko links me to a Highlander sharpening his broadsword. Now that all that is out in the open I would be more than happy to share more once asked. There are good days where the work gets done non-stop and other days it seems like high explosives couldn’t get me out of bed! One day after another.

Now I will get to the question that I mentioned in the title. Although I have a bunch of ideas I am curious to find out what you, the reader,s would like me to further write about? From looking at the statistics provided by WordPress I can see that there is almost equal interest in the farm and in bushcrafting so thus the query. One thing that I have been working on for quite some time is an article that, with permission from the band, I am using the lyrics from the Kingston band “The Glorious Sons” of the song “Heavy” and how that it provides an excellent message relating to my philosophy of survival and preparedness. As well and article on how my cook set from Quick-Stove is upcoming. I have about a hundred or so knives of all types so is there any specifically that someone wants my opinion on? Hey, with enough interest maybe I will be able to talk the Minister of War and Finance (my wife) to purchase a new knife if there is enough interest and I do not already own that model (ssshh, don’t tell her my master plan!).

So, with that I will hit publish. I hope that someone out there likes this stuff as much as I enjoy spending the time writing about it. Stay safe and appreciate what we have.

John “Bubba” Kennedy

Fire Starting Challenge

Good morning World,

I am going to start off another article pleading for forgiveness from my few readers and followers due to the length of time between posts. It is not from lack of ideas but rather that I found myself so busy on the homestead that there were some high priority projects to be completed before another long Canadian winter hits. Lucky for me, my wife recently commented that if I wish to be successful as a writer that I actually have to sit down and write! Simple words, yet very profound.

The Challenge

Recently the head of Canadian Bushcraft posted a challenge to all of the other instructors for fire starting.  As I have stated often within the few other articles I have published on the subject, fire craft is of the utmost importance, especially in the more northern regions of the world. With fire you can cook, boil water to make it safe to consume, provides light to complete projects after the sun sets, provides a means for creating a signal which to attract rescuers with either with light or smoke, and provide life saving heat to protect against or treat hypothermia. Additionally a fire can provide comfort and morale for a person in a survival situation and a sense of success and accomplishment. Conversely, should a person in a survival situation attempt to build a fire and fail, the psychological effect can be devastating.

The challenge proposed by Caleb followed him creating a video where, when out moose hunting on a wet miserable day, he lit a fire with natural materials gathered throughout the day (sphagnum moss and old man’s beard) and dried these by the method of putting the damp material inside his clothing and allowing his body heat to remove a majority of the moisture. If I remember correctly he then achieved flame by catching a spark from a flint and steel. The challenge was for the rest of us to create a fire during a wet, rainy autumn day with only the materials found in nature except for a match or lighter. I was pleasantly surprised, and clarified this specifically, that no other man-made materials (like char cloth) could be used, thus adding to the difficulty. I am guessing that at least one person that reads this is going to be shaking his/her head and saying “Lighter – that is too easy – anyone can do that”. To him/her my only reply is that next time the rain is coming down on a cold, wet October day, go outside and try it yourself with only those materials that you can find then come back and let me know how it went. In fact, I would like to propose this to any of the people that end up reading this and let me know how it goes. Please let me know for a couple of reasons 1) you might have a trick or idea which we could all learn from, 2) by getting out and trying this in a controlled environment allows you to learn more of your own capabilities when your personal safety is not in jeopardy, and finally 3) I have some proof that somebody out there is actually reading my work!

Challenge Accepted

On Sunday past my youngest son and I went to take the dogs for a run out on the shore of Lake Ontario after a couple miserable dreary days. Dogs, a great excuse to take some time off from the farm chores and get out in the woods. About five minutes after we had Zach’s 4-wheeler on the trailer and heading out the raindrops started again. Zach, being a month away from becoming a teenager, was initially but pleasantly surprised when I replied to his observations of the drops on the windshield as a questioning “So?” Guess he thought that this old soldier was afraid of melting; I will admit cold and wet are not some of my favourite sensations but it made for the perfect opportunity to complete Caleb’s challenge.

One of the things that made the fire challenge different for each of us is the flora and fauna in your local area. I have much more experience in the bio-region where Caleb resides, that being the boreal forest. Surprisingly only about 50 km north of me is where the Canadian Shield/boreal forest transitions into the Great Lakes area. The biggest thing to me is that in my immediate area there are almost no paper birch trees and those few that can be found are widely dispersed. If I had birch bark, due to the resins it contain a good sized bundle holding some processed and shredded bark when touched with a flame will equal successful completion of the challenge in a right quick manner. Very few pine trees either where I might be able to find resin impregnated cones or even better some fatwood. In my vicinity I have to be able to utilize the maple, oak, hawthorn, some beech, sumac, wild grape and Juniper (also called Eastern Red Cedar).

I would guess that most anyone reading a bushcraft blog would have watched a video or read about creating a tinder bundle of small easily ignitable material, often called a “bird’s nest”, in which you can place your newly created ember in order to blow air which leads to turning the ember into flames. It had rained the previous couple days but the morning was clear and had just started to sprinkle again. Instead of starting from scratch I decided that since nature had provided it, I would use the real thing.

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It looked to be in the branches of this sumac but I was surprised that it had been built and held in place around some old wild grape vines. These came along after I was well assured that this nest was long abandoned.

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As you can see, the nest had been constructed with a wide range of materials ranging from some moss, to grass and various small twigs.

 

Just because I knew that Caleb is going to say “I did this in a downpour and it was just sprinkling for you Bubba” I wanted to fend off this before it even starts. Plus, having the usage of a match or lighter, I wanted to make this more of a challenge for myself.  Zach had just buzzed through on the trail and sprayed up muddy water from the huge puddles (almost lakes onto themselves) gave me an idea.

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Now this should make it interesting!! Almost fully submersed!

 

I have to admit that after doing this I was a wee bit concerned. The bits of moss were giving out squirts of water for quite a bit as I tried to get this back to where napalm would not be required.

As I walked back towards the site I had chosen for the fire I started to swing this birds nest in large circles with my full arm with the goal of removing some of the moisture through both centrifugal force and by convection of the air movement.  At the same time I was keeping an eye out (what Dave Canterbury calls a “possum mentality”) for other, hopefully dry, materials use.   Luck was with me and I found some great material (which likely saved the day). There was a stand of milkweed that had dried and was still standing with many pods still sealed. These were gathered with some of the closed pods put into the drop-pouch and some of the long stocks joining in with the birds nest still going round-and-round.  There was a small stand of Juniper just off the trail with some of the lower branches dead but well off the ground – side note for anyone not already aware…look for the lower, dead branches of conifers as these will usually be dry as apposed to pickup deadfall from the ground where it can absorb moisture easily.

I took the aforementioned materials back to the fire site and stashed them away and returned to the track where I had found a large amount of dried grass-like mixed material around some sumac bushes.  Taking off the top bit of the wet material I was able to gather small armload of almost dry stuff. Not the absolute best, but pretty darn close and really, if we had everything we needed all the time there would not be a requirement for survival training and practice.

The real trick to fire craft is PREPARATION.  This is especially true when working with natural materials only as a chemical fire starters can make up for a lot of mistakes.  That is why I  recommend to any students, and I always do, carry a few good different means of aiding to assure that you will be certain to have fire when it as most needed. There are no points for style but only for results when survival is the game.

This preparation involved breaking open and few of the milkweed pods to expose the fluffy seed particles and adding the dry grass like material to the mud-puddle dumped bird’s nest. Here is what she looked like…

 

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And then ready to start.

 

 

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That Aussie ‘roo leather had was just the ticket for catching the Juniper shavings I made from being blown away in the wind on the lake front. These fine shavings were included into the pile and the remainder broken up and placed beside the fire area to add on once required.

With all of this fine material even the fact that there was a lot of moisture made it a bit touch-and-go after flame from the Zippo hit the centre of the nest.

The end results…

Challenge Completed

 

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WE HAVE FIRE!!

With a cold wet son fire was welcomed for one of the great things about the bush…

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A canteen cup of hot water to make up some powdered chicken noodle soup. Ever notice how this tastes so horrible at home and amazing by the fire?

So in closing, please get out there and try it for yourself and please let us know how it goes.

Bubba

Firestarting Gear of the Mountain Men and Fur Traders

My Favourite “Old-School” Fire Kit

Fire is one of mankind’s most important assistants and in our modern era people it is so prevalent that most do not even think of how common and easy it is to obtain. It is used in every household and in many industrial applications. The furnace in your basement that provides heat in the home is merely a high tech appliance that houses a fire. As the temperature drops in the house the thermostat tells the furnace to create a spark and to start burning the fuel oil or natural gas. It is the fire which warms you. It is this tiny spark which starts the process of combustion that we need to recreate in order to light a fire in the woods to heat ourselves, cook our food and boil water for the noon “cuppa” as my Ozzie friends call it.

Since the start of the Iron Age man has had a tool which greatly eased his ability to create a spark, that being the traditional “Flint and Steel”.  Along with a magnifying glass as I discussed in the article on the Hudson Bay Tobacco Box, it was the main means of starting a fire until the invention of the match in the 1820’s. In accuatlity the match did not gain in popularity until almost a hundred years later when the troops of the First World War used them to light their tobacco in the trenchs of France and Belgium.

This article is about my Flint and Steel kit. There is a tendency in some refernce material, both in the written word and in some YouTube videos, to call a ferrocium rod a “Flint and Steel”, a great inaccuracy. This kit I am about to describe is one that I would think that any of the traders that the Hudson Bay Company or North-West Company would carry as part of their personal equipment as they left the confines of their post, like when Samuel Hearne left Fort Prince of Wales to investigate the stories which lead to the discovery of the Coppermine River.

My Kit

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It is about 4.25 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and 1 inch thick. I honestly have zero idea as to the age except to say that it looks old. Where I live, in Prince Edward County Ontario, was settled originally for the United Empire Loyalist, so I like to believe that it is from this era. There are no markings upon it to prove this, nor are there any to disprove. When I found this treasure at one of the second hand shops in the area the hinge pin was loose and prone to falling out so a bit of solder was employed to secure it on one side. The black band you can see in the photo is because it does not latch close, so a Ranger-band (a piece of bicycle inner-tube) keeps the contents secure. Despite how much I love this box it is what inside that counts, so lets get to it!

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This is how it looks all packed up.

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All opened up, starting at the top

  • Inside the lid of the brass box is the piece of black flint. This is the piece of flint that came with the steel when I purchased it from “Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co-op”. It is excellent quality and creates a great spark. Better than what I can find in nature in my area although I have found a few pieces of quartz that were close.
  • On the left side of the tin the white balls are some commercial tinder, which is cotton with impregnated wax. Small, compact and make a good flame extender once you get your spark going.
  • Inside the box on the left is a piece of fatwood. Again, this is something to keep the fire going during the critical first stages of ignition.
  • Next is the steel. This particular steel is one that I purchased, as I described above. In just about survival book out there they discuss fire starting with the flint and steel but have found that not only is some of the information inaccurate but also lacking. The standard picture oft copied is of a folded pocket knife striking sparks into a pile of (unidentified) tinder. They fail to tell you that if your knife is stainless you are out of luck. Your fire steel needs to be properly tempered carbon steel.  I have made steels in the past from old chainsaw files and in fact the first one I ever made is sitting in a box awaiting shipment to my friend Karl in Australia.
  • To the left-centre of the photo, I am sorry that it is hard to see, is a pile of Jute twine cut to about three inches long. These are useful to augment natural materials in a “tinder bundle” or “bird’s nest”.
  • Finally, below the tin are the last things to be described. Here there is a chunk of all natural cotton that I use to protect the edges of the flint while packed in the tin and additionally, if necessity dictates, this could be more augmentation to a marginal natural tinder. The big black blob in the photo is “char cloth”. This is used to catch the spark created by striking the flint and steel together (as will be described below). Char cloth is exactly as the name states; it is 100% Cotton cloth that has been charred (burnt in a tin that excludes oxygen to create charcoal instead of ash) In a later article I will show how to make this. My char cloth is made with old denim from jeans that are beyond repair for the kids. One thing to be careful of, and I am glad that I noticed this before I made my last batch, is to check the jeans label to ensure that it is made of 100% cotton. I found that the old jeans of my youngest daughter were not; polyester and spandex had been added. I like char cloth but there are many other materials in nature that could fulfill the same roll like charred punkie wood or charred cat-tail tops.

 

 

Create Fire!

 

It is great to have a kit, but absolutely useless if you don’t know how it works or how to use it.

The basic principle of true flint and steel is that a small sliver of carbon steel, when removed from the striker, is pyrophoric. That is the scientific way of saying that it heats to the point of burning. According to most of the things I have seen this sliver of carbon steel burns at about 800 degrees. Although this might seem a lot it should be noted that the material from a modern ferrocium rod burns at about 5400 degrees Celsius.  These facts are important for two reasons. 1) the spark is created by shaving off a sliver from the steel with a sharp, hard edge of the piece of flint, and 2) this spark is small and burns up quickly so you need to catch it and use it to coax other material into a large enough coal to cause ignition into flame.

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You can see from this view of the steel that it has some small divots in the striking face. Scars of fires past!

There are a couple methods that can be utilized to catch the spark. The first way is to take a piece of the char cloth and hold it on top and at one of the sharp edges of the piece of flint.

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I would strike this almost inline with my thumb in the above photograph. Holding the piece of flint steady and slightly turned up, you then want to bring the striker downwards and just barely skimming the sharp edge of the stone. Think of when you learned to use a hand-plane in woodshop in Grade Eight. As nice piece of material will be removed with the right force in the right place. It is actually easier to do than it is to describe. One thing that I read recently (unfortunately I forget the source to properly credit them) is that when properly attempting this skill you should not hear a “click-click-click” sound – There should be a click and then a pause while you check your char cloth for signs of success. The funny thing is that you never know which strike will be the one that drives the spark accurately. The very first time that I tried when my new steel arrived I achieved a nice bright ember on my char. Of course no one was around to witness this. The second time, when I when to show the kids how to do it, I bet it took me fifteen times before the spark hit the right place. Isn’t that always the way it works out?

Another method of achieving success with the flint and steel is to leave your char cloth inside the container. Holding the steel steady on the char cloth, strike the steel this time by using a downward motion with the piece of flint. The goal here is to drive a molten piece of steel downward into the charred material. Once you can see that you have started one of the pieces of char a-lite, remove this piece from the tinder box and then close up the lid. This will then smother any additional pieces that might have caught a spark.

Now that you have a piece of char cloth smoldering it is now time to place this into the tinder bundle. Like most things in life, if you know what you are doing and take care you will achieve success and there is no reason to panic. Unlike a match, glowing char cloth will not go out in a breeze but actually burn more intensely. Use the jute twine that has been teased out to fine fibres on the inside of the tinder ball will greatly enhance your ability to quickly make flames. One word of caution – if your tinder bundle is mostly jute, the speed of ignition can be shocking and potentially cause burns – yup, it’s that fast, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Okay, with the glowing char cloth nestled in jute fibre inside the tinder bundle, take this and holding it just a little above eye level, blow upwards into the ember at a steady rate to provide the necessary oxygen to cause flame. I recommend holding it upwards so that it will lessen the amount of smoke that will get into your eyes and lungs. Once this bursts into flame, slide this into your kindling in the fire site.

 

Final Words

Fire starting with the flint and steel to me is one of the most satisfying methods that I can utilized but it is not a method that I will use when I really NEED a fire in an emergency situation. It might have been the best method for a thousand years, but modern technology has provided advancements that are more reliable and should be your first choice when your life is on the line. As a survival instructor, I still will demonstrate the flint and steel technique as it is an excellent way to demonstrate the requirements for successfully fire making. When I am out in the bush with the dogs and kids I love the process of making the tinder bundle and then coaxing the tiny spark created from the steel to life. It truly feels to me like reaching back through history to share with my ancestors as they landed on the shores of this great country in search of freedom and opportunities to trade with my wife’s ancestors.

Fox Knives Bushcraft Parang Review

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Good Morning World,

Having previously written a combination knife review/kit description, I thought that it was time to tackle something a little larger.  This next up, as you can tell from the title, is the “Bushcraft Parang”, a model produced by Fox FKMD (Fox Knives Military Division). As you can see from the opening photo, it is a knife that I have owned for a few years and used often. It might come as a surprise though, considering the size, that when my daughter Ally was eight she decided that this was one of her favourite knives in my collection and thus she too has carried and used this  blade frequently in the last three years.

 

A Bit of a Description

I have to admit  that until I received this in the mail from Bushcraft Canada that I was under the impression that the blade was going to be more large than what it is in actuality. I really should have considered what 170mm looks like. My fault for not translating the metric into imperial. It is funny that although Canada officially converted to the metric system all the way back in 1977, people who are around my age work in both systems depending on the unit being considered. Short measurements such as the persons height and weight are in the old system (no one will know what I am saying if “…I’m 177 cm tall” …no I’m 5’9″)  but the city of Toronto is about 250 km away.  Liquids are by the litre but we still use the imperial in the stores for things like meat – I think of the four litres of milk is about four dollars and hamburger is 3 dollars a pound.  All this to say that I was surprised when the blade turned out to be around six inches in length.  This is why, for comparison, I included the photo with a standard SAK for scale.

As for steel, it is as it states on the blade, from Maniago Italy, which is one of the old world steel areas much like Sheffield England and German Soligen.  This parang is made of a stainless steel of the type N690Co. A little research determined that this is one of the higher end cutlery steels that is propriety of Bohler of Austria. If you hang out on some of the internet forums for the lover of sharp things you will not find very much negative written about this steel by those internet experts that write like they know what they are talking about.  I say this because, not knowing them personally, I can not vouch for their level of experience or academic qualifications. The one thing I will say is that I am extremely happy with it. Holds an edge exceptionally well and is strong. It put up with everything I have put it through without issue and as I said earlier, it is Ally’s favourite large knife. If it can handle the abuse that a pre-teen can dish out without even chipping…

 

Things this knife has Accomplished

Over the course of the last few years this knife has seen a wide variety of tasks over all seasons not only in the woods but also on the homestead. It works best when used in a more brutal manner; finesse is not where it shines. The flat grind makes it a great chopper. This is important due to the fact that each year after Christmas any of the trees that were not sold still find a use around the farm. Chopping the branches of a Balsam fir Christmas tree is not a fun job at any time but went they are still green and frozen can be hard on a blade (see my article on Homestead Blade #1 on what it can do to a cheap machete). Ally at nine could easily de-branch a seven foot tree with this parang almost as fast as I could!

As well, just to mix things up when I am splitting kindling for the woodstove, I will often use this and baton what I need. Not because this is the easiest tool but I just enjoy using this knife.  The flat grind might seem to be inefficent for batonning and splitting but I find that the Fox Parang to excel at these tasks. I can only credit this to the actuall geometry of the size of the blade but despite my initail misgivings it turned out to be quite effective.  It should be noted that I am only attempting to preform batonning on reasonable piece of wood – maximum about 4 inches across and 16 inches long – not some of the wet, knotty logs some of the people out there use as their examples.

 

The Best Part – A Complete Survival “Package”

One of the great things that the designer of this knife and Fox FKMD did when marketing this knife was to include a large detachable pouch containing a complete survival kit.

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Well, not really complete as some of the items contained within the supplied kit were definately made by the lowest bidder, but the idea was a good one. Although I will give a description of the items that I have now in my kit. Please  remember that these are NOT some of the original items but what I have made into a funtional kit for my enviroment.  In the description that I writ for each item I will state if it cam with the original kit or is an upgrade.  I will most likely receive some messages asking about the original items, but it is my beleif that a person would be foolish if they rely on substandard equipment that might be used in a situation where their “survival” is in question. In any survival situation you would like to have the best possible quality that you can afford so, for instance, the cheap quality folding knife that originaly came in the tin has been replaced with a Swiss Army folding knife.  So, what is now in my kit:

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The outside pouch on the knife sheath holds this aluminum box and with sufficent room to include this emergency mylar blanket. You can see in the photo that the box is closed with roller type clips on each end for security. The box is gasket sealed but I also have sealed up the box with one inch tape – “Gorilla” brand which I find to be exeptional for strenght and waterproofing.

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When you first open up the box you will see the clear silicon gasket in the lid and also that the inside of the lid has a bright refledtive surface which can be utilized as a signal mirror. Flashing sunlight with this surface is an effective means of attracting potential rescuers from great distanaces. The seealed white package to the left in this photograph came initally with the knife and contains a long piece of elastic bandage that you can cut to the desire length. On top of the rest of the items in the box is one of my favourite chemical firestarters, the “Ignite-o” brand. This will burn for a period of time that even the dampest of kindling, in all but the worst scenarios, will have sufficent time and heat to ignite to get a fire going. The aluminum box can also be suspended over a fire with some of the snare wire which will provide a small cooking implement or a way to boil water to make it safe for consumption.

Now, lets get to the rest of the items.

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  • The top item is a metal whistle that was included in the kit. As most anyone reading this will know that this makes a good signaling device which is more effective and longer lasting than the human voice trying to yell for extended periods of time.  Remember how your voice sounded after the last AC/DC concert? ’nuff said! One additional thing about this whistle is that it contains a small vial that is waterproofed with a rubber o-ring. I use this to carry some of my prescrition medication that I require on a daily basis. Sucks getting old, but a survival situation is not the time to also we suffering from lack of medication.
  • A button compass. Effective enough for cardinal directions and definately better than nothing .
  • A package of salt. It came with it and takes up little space.
  • A condom that came with it. All the survival books say that this will make a great water carrier, but I perfer to carry my water, especially in a situation where it would come to this, in my stomach to prevent dehydration. I leave it in here as it takes up little space and for the off chance that I might need it to put something into it to keep it waterproof, like a GPS during a river crossing…
  • Bandages in a waterproof plastic bag.
  • A couple small pieces of paper sealed in plastic that came with the kit. It is flat and thin so takes up very little space.
  • On top of the paper is a small sewing kit that came as part of the package.  A couple needles, thread and some small buttons. Good for emergency repairs and if your name is John J. Rambo you can use these to suture up a wound.
  • Starting now at the top right and going downward, for the few people that have read my previous articles you will see something that I have included in almost every one of my kits – a couple of cotton tampons in plastic wrap. These are good items for first aid, especially puncture wounds, and make excellent tinder for fire starting.
  • A “Bic” brand small disposable lighter. I like the orange ones when I can find them as they are easier to see if accidently dropped on the ground.
  • As previously mentioned an “Ignite-O” firestarter. All you have to do with these is apply flame to the plastic wrapper and away they go. Even if the lighter fails, as things are so prone to when you REALLY need them,  a bit of cotton from the tampon and a spark from the ferro rod will get this going. These burn for longer than most other commercial firestarters I have tested, plus have the benefit of being relatively flat, which makes them convenient for packing.
  • It is a bit hard to see but along the bottom edge of the Ignite-O is a full sized ferro rod with the handle removed. The kit does come with a miniature ferro rod which I found to be basically useless and appeared much to fragile to trust in a situation where I might really need it. Therefore, out with the crap and in with a ferro rod that I know will work when I need it.
  • Going down the next item is a DOAN’s magnesium bar.  These also have a built in ferro rod. Scrape the magnesium side to make a pile of fine shavings (I like to shave it onto a fluffed up cotton ball to prevent loss especially if windy) about the size of a nickel and hit them with a spark from a ferro rod and these will burn white hot.
  • The red thing is something I suspect most people will recognize – A Swiss Army Knife. The knife that came with the kit was…I was going to say garbage but that would be and insult to garbage.  I put in to the kit as a replacement a SAK “Camping” model. It has two additional blades which will allow for fine, detailed work while the Fox Parang will cover every other task. This model of SAK also includes a very good little saw, plus the standard screw driver and can opener. Great little knife and reasonably priced considering all the features it contains.
  • To the left of this is a single edged razor blade with a cardboard protective wrap. It came with the original kit, takes up  very little space and provides yet another sharp edge in the kit.
  • In the centre of the picture there is a wire saw that came with the kit. These have been known to fail but if careful can cut through some decent sized pieces of wood. Like any tool it is important to use it correctly and not stress it beyond its capabilities.
  • It is hard to tell from the photo but that plastic bag to the right of the bottom ring of the saw contains the fishing kit that came included. A few various sized hooks, line, small swivels and a couple of sinkers.  For me, personally, fishing will not be high on my priority list mainly due to the fact that I cannot stand the taste of fish. That being said, I am pretty certain that if hungry enough it would be delicious, but since most survival situations are concluded in under 72 hours that I could use this time to lose a couple of pounds.
  • Finally there are two rolls of brass snare wire. The smaller roll came with the kits and is rather thin and the larger sized roll is what is generally used in my part of the world to set rabbit snares.  Snaring is something that is best accomplished with some snow one the ground so that the rabbit runs can be identified but the wire can also be utilized in many ways including assisting in securing a shelter together or making emergency repairs to equipment.

So there you have it.  All of these items together is why I call this a complete survival system.

 

The Sheath

The sheath that the Fox Parang comes equipped with does a pretty good job and provides for a variety of carry options, including a belt loop and MOLLE attachments. My preferred method for this knife is the baldric style. By adding an adjustable cargo strap through where the belt loop is I now can carry over either shoulder and easily change for the seasons for everything from t-shirt to Arctic Parka.

One thing that I experienced, and I have seen from other reviews it is common, is that the retaining strap to secure the blade into the sheath is positioned in a manner that it is easy to cut the webbing while drawing or replacing the parang into the sheath.  If they had used a few more inches of strap and secured it to the rear of the sheath instead of the front that I suspect that this would have not occurred. Now, in order to prevent further damage, requires the use of both hands to get out or put back the knife – one hand on the handle and the other holding the strap well back and out of the way.

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You can see from this photo that there are two elastic type straps on each side of the sheath. When this came in the box there way a green cylume stick (“glow stick”) in these which could either be used for signaling or if you stumble upon a rave in the bush? Sometimes, especially in the winter when it gets dark so much earlier, I will carry a 3AA Mag-Lite in these.

Summing Up

The designer of this knife,  Alfredo Doricchi, did an excellent job, but even he, on “BladeForum” stated that this was not designed to be a do-everything blade but to be part of a system that includes a multi-tool and possibly a bushcraft knife for more precise work. The Fox Bushcraft Parang is a decent chopper on most types of wood found in my bio-region (Great Lakes/Boreal Forest transition).

To paraphrase Mr. Doricchi, this is not my one tool option, but there is never a time when I would go out to the woods with only one tool. On a bit of a rant, I hate the question that seems to pop up all the time on the internet forums (although I may have answered this in the past) “If you could only have one knife…….” Why would you ever handicap yourself and limit your options by only carrying one?

Bottom line – would I recommend this knife. Yes, and I have done so in the past.  Good design, good steel and a self contained survival kit.  Particularly in the winter while out snowshoeing in the bush it is like that old “American Express” commercial…

“Don’t leave home without it.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to comment on what you might carry as your one package survival system or if you have any further questions on this topic!

 

 

A secret of a Survival Instructor

I have been teaching and living Wilderness survival and homesteading on and off for many years. I actually started teaching at around the age of 15! I had just moved into the city of London Ontario at the start of high school after living on a farm in New Brunswick during my childhood. Having spent the winters running a short snare line for snowshoe hares and the summers wandering the wood fishing from the “crick” – Cross Crick to be precise –  made me have a passion for the bush that I wanted to pass on to my peers. I still have that passion and love the opportunity to pass it on both through the medium of the internet with this blog and in person assisting at Canadian Bushcraft. For the few people currently following my writings also know, I am starting a micro-farm where I am learning everyday and teaching some to my children in the process.

I am writing this short article to let you in on one of the secrets that most Wilderness Survival Instructors already know. The better ones acknowledge this secret and do their best to minimize it. The worst, egocentric “look at me” instructors will hate me for letting this secret out; their ego will not allow them to admit that it could ever happen to them. Over time I am sure that I will divulge a few other tidbits of information that the best instructors will admit and the worst will deny. Tonight’s secret is: we make mistakes. Sometimes they are huge mistakes (my first wife for example) and other times they are of the type .that are stupid,and embarrassing because they are so unnecessary.

 

Today’s article is on an even that happened this weekend. My oldest daughter and her boyfriend were over for a visit. Lisa likes to show off the area where we live as it is extremely beautiful and we love to take the dogs out for a swim. Since I am still recovering from surgery last weekend Jason from surgery the week previous, we could not get out there in the water with the girls so were hanging out on the rock beach. Since there was a bunch of drift wood, Jason and I figured that we would have a small fire going to dry off the girls before we headed home for supper. Being a city boy all his life, Jason has not much bush time and thought that fire starting requires half the Kingston Whig Standard newspaper and matches and/or lighter. I figured that I would demonstrate something different so I pulled out one of my favourite low-tech, historical ways to get things going; my Hudson Bay Tobacco Tin fire kit.

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So I cut a short piece of jute twine and teased it  into fibers. A small piece of char cloth made from an old pair of denim jeans. “Jason, watch this…” as I had the sun lens make the small pin-light and whiff of smoke that experience said the magic was about to begin. One light puff blown in the right area and pooooff – I had flame! With the words “…hey, that was cool…” still ringing in my ears I looked about to see that I had made the worst rookie fire-maker’s mistake. Not enough prep work!!! I watched in horror as these flames from the jute found that they had little to spread too and quick as they were there, to quote the french guys I went to college with when they were trying to learn English “…and there it was, gone.”

 

I hung my head in shame and believe it or not, actually admitted to Jason that I had made a mistake. I then attempted to redeem myself. I explained exactly what I did wrong, then explain what steps that I should have taken and finally showed Jason step-by-step the proper way to prepare not only a real sized jute nest but also the proper amount and placement of the additional small kindling required to eight the small pieces of fuel.When the sun came out from behind the cloud again I approached the lesson/demonstration in the manner of a real instructor and not the “look at me preform magic” jackass that I was just a few moments ago.

I thought about this often in the last twenty four hours and I think that I have learned something important. I also hope that by admitting my mistakes will help someone else to learn from it and avoid making the same. We should never slack off in teaching skills even if it is to family. Someday their life might depend on it (or in this case the life of my daughter possibly) and if they are not taught to the best of your ability then imagine the guilt of knowing that you could have made a difference.

So for the students out there, remember not to put you instructor onto a pedestal; we all make mistakes. For the instructors remember that intelligence is learning from your mistakes, Genius is learning from others and avoiding making them yourself. Be a genius.

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