Category Archives: Nature

Rainy Days and Turtles

Last weekend I caught a break in the torrential downpours  occurring for days on end and wandered into a nearby woodland.  The quest was simple, to see what I could see.  I was not disappointed!  All the rain had kept the general public away for the weekend and the woods were a vibrant green.  On top of that, the birds and wildlife were taking advantage of the break in the weather as well.  Still looking for my first snake of the year but this was a solid trip.

It was a good little adventure.  Come on along with me on a bit of a wet and slick ridge climb!

Next weekend, I’m heading into the woods on my first bushcraft/minimalist camping trip of the season.  I’ll be taking the camera with me to be sure.  I’m super excited about the trip as I’ve had to cancel three times previously.  If all goes well, I’ll be in the woods for two straight days.

More to come!

New Youtube Channel

I wanted to make a quick post to let people know about my newest project.  I’ve decided to start a Youtube channel focusing on getting out into the woods and wild.  I call them my homemade adventures.  At the turn of the new year I decided I wanted to do something like this and so started thinking and planning as to what it would look like.  What did I want to cover?  What was the focus of the channel?

I knew I wanted to focus on my lifelong love of being in the woods.  I call it “getting in my dirt time.”  It keeps me sane.  “Shinrin-Yoku” or forest bathing as it is becoming to be known.

I  decided I would also focus on bushcraft, foraging, nature awareness and observation.  In addition, I couldn’t forget  my love of rock hounding, fossil collecting and getting out there and “finding something.”  I wanted to share those experiences with people.  As I practiced and tried out ideas I came to discover I just really, really enjoy making videos.

So, welcome to Yoteden Off Trail!  My plan is to have a video at least once a week at the minimum.   The first video is below and there is, most certainly, more to come!

The Oak Gall Ink Project

oakgallsDuring the hike over the weekend we found a large collection of oak galls.  I decided to baggie up what we could find so I could attempt to make some oak gall ink. With my re-found love of quill pens, fountain pens and lettering (see my Instagram account for that wackiness),  I figured combining some outdoors foraging with making ink might be a fun thing to do.

One of the most intriguing things I found in researching the ink was that not only are the galls made by wasps but that the ink created from them has recorded most of European history.  Stop and think about that for a moment and let that perspective sink in.  Tiny little wasp.  Most of written history before 1800’s.  All because of how a tree forms around some wasp eggs?  Yeah…

After researching on the net, I found a few recipes I liked and decided two things about the entire process.  1.) There were numerous and varied ways to make oak gall ink, from simple to complex.  2.) I was going to take all I read and just make up my own.  I wanted the fun of experimentation and not a rote process.  I’m not entirely sure I’ll be successful but that’s part of the suspense, right?  The recipe I came up with is a bit slapdash and we’ll see how it all goes.  At the bottom of this page I’ll link a few sites that were good resources for me.  I encourage everyone to do your own searching, however.  Do a couple of searches and lose a few hours in research.  It’s fun!

My first step was to take the galls and with my “highly specialized equipment” break them down.  I used an old towel to keep the remains all in one place on the concrete.  I placed these in a spare glass jar for storage while I could get the rest of the recipe sorted out.

hammergalls

Most of the recipes I could find were based in large quantities and I failed at the math involved.  (I warned you: slapdash.)  At first I had assumed clean water and heat would be used and I was right on my first skim of websites.  However, I started digging a bit deeper and I found information for fermenting the galls and it seems the older recipes also called for using white wine or even beer.   Being a past brewer I liked the idea of my ink fermenting in some white wine.   In proper slapdash fashion I found an unused bottle of cooking wine in our cabinet and figured out the proportions of what I would use.  This is what I came up with.

1  cup of crushed Oak Gall
1  cup of clean water (I used bottled drinking water.)
1 1/2 cups of white cooking wine

I poured this all in an empty jar, covered it with seran wrap and then placed on the lid.

firstrun

The plan moving forward is this.  I’ll let the container sit for approximately 12 – 14 days.  I’ll shake the container once a day.  (Some recipes called for the mixture to sit for 2 months and although I do want to try that angle, I want things a little faster for the first time.)

At the end of the 2 weeks I’ll reassess and if things look dark enough, I will draw off the liquid and give it a solid boil, condensing things a bit.  I’ll add in the iron sulfate and the gum arabic that all the recipes I could find called for using and, well, play with things from there.

One of my initial concerns is that the galls we found were very hollow with very thin walls.  They smashed quite easily.  I’m guessing they were quite old and perhaps do not have the full amount of tannins I would get from a more solid, fresh gall?  All part of the experiment and as I find fresh galls this year we may just try this all over again!

Here is how things look after 5 days.  Not much change!

5days

After looking at the two pics, I’m thinking I’ll add what’s left of the crushed galls (about 1/2 cup) to see if I can’t get the solution to darken further. I may also add about 1/4 more water as it appears the galls have soaked up some of the liquid.  On the other hand, things might change once the iron is added and the solution is cooked down a bit.

I’ll post an update as things go along!

If anyone has any thoughts or experience with this don’t hesitate to chime in on the comments.

 

Resources:

Iron Gall Ink Website – http://irongallink.org/igi_indexd7ce.html

California Live Oak Iron Gall Ink Recipe –– http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/234759-california-live-oak-iron-gall-ink-recipe/

Travelling Scriptorium – Iron Gall Ink – http://travelingscriptorium.library.yale.edu/2013/03/21/iron-gall-ink/

A very nice SCA related site for Iron Gall Ink by Ian – https://sites.google.com/site/ianthegreen01/ian’sinkmakingpage

First Trail of 2016

FirstpicWith the February weather opening a nice window of sunny Spring-like weather over the weekend I took my wife and daughter on a long hike into the Hoosier National Forest along Lake Monroe.  This was a particularly special event for me.  All my life I’ve typically gone into the woods alone.  Due to my wife’s past fitness level, she had never been able to go with me this far down a trail.  This year was different because several months ago my wife started a fitness/weight loss program and stuck with it.  The result? I was getting to share my hiking and nature experiences and knowledge with her.  For the first time in our relationship, we were going on a day long hike.

Besides completing the trip, we had three goals. I wanted to have more than just a small hike. I wanted an afternoon and into the evening kind of day on the trail. It had been since December that I had gotten into the woods and I wanted a full day to reset my nature batteries! The first goal was to stop at mid-point, have lunch and just settle down for a bit to enjoy the energy. Since we were in a National forest we were going for a quick fire, some high quality hot-dogs and s’mores. A classic choice for sure.

The second was to try out our hammocks. My wife had purchased an ENO Singlenest for me as a Christmas gift two years ago. Though comfortable, it was not well suited for my height. At Valentine’s Day, she surprised me with a Doublenest hammock and then gleefully claimed the Singlenest as her own. For this trip I’d be showing her how to set the Singlenest up with the straps and she would get her first chance to try it out. I would try out my Doublenest and maybe catch a nap!

Finally, several Bald Eagles had been seen in the area we would be in and so our third and final goal was to hopefully see one of those majestic birds once we got to the lake’s edge.  Not much else we could do there except put ourselves in the right spot and keep our fingers crossed.

Read the rest of this entry

A New Picture Snapper

I recently upgraded my phone. Is it sad that, as a photographer with no real camera, my main interest was about getting something with a good camera that was not just set to Automatic all the time?  I’ve been without my SLR for a year or so now and I miss it, especially the ability to use a good telephoto.

Regardless, a new phone was acquired and with it a pretty good little camera. The added bonus is I let go of my Windows phone and joined the Android ranks thus giving me access to a WordPress app that doesn’t suck.  I normally just post my shots to Instagram but I figured it couldn’t hurt to put them here as well more often. These are from a recent woodland wall yesterday afternoon in near perfect, October weather.  Enjoy!

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Spun Around

I’ve been working towards an announcement here for some time.  The delay has been due to some hesitancy on my part and, quite honestly, a complete lack of solid writing time on all other parts involved.  Then, a magic combination happened, Labor Day weekend + receiving a nice note from WordPress thanking me for being here for 5 full years.  It got me to thinking and helped me to decide to finally, once and for all, write the post and, in doing so, add one more subject to this very random blog!

Alright.  Here we go.  I’m a spinner.  Sure, I spin stories but, well, in a gender-bender style twist, it would appear I also spin wool. (My friend whom I lovingly call Chair-Spinner will, no doubt, find this immensely entertaining.)

My fascination with the craft showed up over a year ago when I saw a historical reenactor doing so with turkish spindle at a local “frontier festival.”  Thinking my wife might enjoy something like this I showed her and we purchased a handmade spindle and some wool roving.  Taking it home it was looked at and then, I bet you see this coming, placed in a closet for the next year without being used.

Time passed and, at a gathering, I happened to watch another friend of mine using a drop spindle to ply together handspun yarn.  She seemed so peaceful and at ease as she worked.  I thought it looked incredibly meditative and asked her if it was.  She agreed and the seed was planted when she told me that you can find everything you need to learn on Youtube.  Over the next few day I dusted off the spindle, bought some wool at a yarn store (not even knowing that it was called roving) and set about trying to figure this damn stuff out.  Once I was able to get past the learning curve I found she was right.  It was calming, meditative.  I fell right in and now it’s a little over a year later.

Spindle

I spin every day and I learn.  In the morning I  use it to think over my upcoming, always busy work day and in the evening it helps me settle down.  I have skeins of spun yarn starting to fill up a storage bin and I have piles of roving ready to spin. I have two-plied yarn wrapped around a homemade knitty-knotty and I have dye pots sitting on the back porch.

Wait.  What? Dye pots?

Yeah, this is where I admit that because of all this handspinning business I’ve combined it with my love of wilderness foraging and bushcraft.  (In gamer speak, I’m pretty sure, even though I’ve not figured out how to turn into a bear, I’m a multi-classed Ranger/Druid.)   What all this means is that I forage for items that make good natural dyes and then dye my own handspun wool.  Currently, I’ve just begun harvesting the local pokeberries so as to make a nice purple/burgundy set of yarn for my wife.

dyepot

Brewing up some Goldenrod. More on that soon.

So, yeah, I’m a spinner.  The good news (or maybe the bad news, you decide) is that I’m going to be talking a lot more about all of the above here.  I won’t be talking about the spinning as much as the process of making dyes, the experiments and the results.  In short, I’ll be using the blog as a journal of sorts.  And, yes, I’ll be keeping everything under appropriate categories and tags.

I wouldn’t want to mix my geekery with my fabric craft now would I?

creeper

Final_Fantasy_Malboro_by_Phantasmfreud

Of course not.

Full Swing Summer

BlueI never like it when I turn around and several weeks have disappeared.  It means I’m out of touch, not grounded.  Days go by in a swirl of family, work and personal quests.  It’s like a magic trick that seems to happen from time to time.  I turn around and “poof!”, it’s August!

Looking back at the blog and the preponderance of gaming posts it would seem I’m headed towards a gaming-only blog.  I hope to correct that with this and some future posts.  Gaming was never intended to be the only thing I write about here. Summer is in full swing here at the den and the curious thing is that gaming is the LEAST of what I’m doing these days.  (Well, except for some awesome sessions of X-COM thanks to a generous friend and the Steam Summer sale! ) What irritates me a bit with my own fool self is that Nature, it’s beauty, our connection to it, and what we can use and bring into our lives from it, is a very large part of my life.  Yet I find, looking back at the blog, I’ve written so little about those subjects.

I’m not really sure why that happens.  Perhaps it’s because I carry some preconception that I’m “busy” and that gaming is “easy” to write and my nature writing needs to be “deep” and “meaningful?”  I’m not quite sure.  I’ll figure it out one day but till then, let’s talk about Nature and see what happens?

I look back to the days of yore.  When the wee, young Yote gallivanted through the rolling ridges and woodlands, rambled through creeks looking for crystals, fossils and artifacts and honed his fly fishing skills against the finest bluegill and bass minds to be found.  (Ok, so that was just last week but, well, you get the idea…)  During those days there were always 4 to 6 weeks that were miserable; the hot, humid and nasty days of late July and August.  The days where, even inside, all the paper gets a bit damp from humidity and the nights are spent with only a thin sheet to cover you.  Those days when sometimes three showers and a hose down were just not enough to keep cool.  Late Summer in Indiana when the time in the great outdoors is reserved for the cool morning and the long evening hours.  When, during the scorching, middle day hours, you always have  water handy and constantly seek relief from the nearest shade or shadow from the sun.  You remember those days around here?  And, to add to it, the last few years have been particularly grueling with high heat waves and scorching drought.  Do you remember this time last year?  It was brown.  Life was brown.

Everything was brown and the world crunched when you walked on it.

And then, we have this year.

MorningGloryThis year has been an anomaly which I’ve not seen the likes of since, well, ever!  The nights are cool.  The days are staying, at the most, in the high 80’s.  The rain has been steady.  Our garden has not needed watering once since we planted in late May and June.  The flowers and the green have been startling in their brilliance.  I swear, there is a house on the way into town, it has a flower garden right near the road.  I’m amazed there’s not been more wrecks there this year.  The amount of color exploding outward is a massive distraction.  Seriously, someone needs to call the city or something.  They should put up a sign, “Caution.  Distracting Color Ahead.”

Garden

LunaMothThere have been mornings when I get up to walk the puppy and I think I’ve been transported to my favorite summer vacation location, Upper Michigan.  Fishing along the shores of nearby Lake Monroe one recent morning, I had an honest-to-God flashback.  One moment I’m casting into a small swirl on the water’s surface and the next I’m standing on the shores of Lake Superior wondering if I should be looking over my shoulder for black bears.  (For the record, we need bears back in Indiana.  It would be awesome!   I’m serious.)

And what’s up with the weather?  I’m seriously missing my quality time hunkering down in a basement and listening to storm sirens.  The storms, when they have arrived, have been perfect.  Full of rain, thunder, lightning, and very little in the way of destruction and chaos.  I’ve fallen asleep twice this summer to the rumbling, far off artillery sounds of heavy thunderstorms.  TWICE!  And without a siren to be heard…

JulyCloudsOh yeah, another question, who ever heard of going back inside to get an over-shirt for a morning walk in late July in Southern Indiana because you are “chilly?”  That word doesn’t exist in Southern Indiana in late Summer.  I looked it up.  It says so in the manual.

Final evaluation?

This summer has been beautiful.  Drop down, million dollar, super star, deluxe model, limited edition gorgeous.

I guess it sort of explains where the past few weeks have gone, eh?

Catch Up

It would appear that my goal of at least one post a week has been shot right down.  No posts for March AND April!  Egad.  What was I thinking?!  I’m not sure what happened really but I know it was a rough mix of new job, family and, the doozie, dealing with numerous passages beyond the veil since last December.  The year of 2013, most certainly, got off to a rough start.

I suppose I wanted to post something to let everyone know that A.) I wasn’t going away just yet and B.) discuss what’s going to happen next.  First of all, I never intended for this blog to be focused on any one subject too long and as I posted in my first post, I have quite a bit of subjects to cover.  One of those is the outdoors.  With the turning of the sun and a return to warmer weather I’ve started being much more active in the great outdoors.  As my wonderful Canon camera is out of action I won’t have a lot of pictures to share but I’ll do what I can with my words and the occasional snap from a point-n-shoot I’ve got on loan.

In the subject of the “woods out back” I’ve been mushroom hunting with no success what. so. ever.  I think at this point I’m going to blame the cooler weather, two turkey flocks in the back valley and the small herd of deer that live with them.  It can’t be my uber-morel hunting skills, right?

The better news is that I’ve gone exploring in the back woods more than once and I’m looking forward to more adventure from that quarter.  One of the things I’ve been enjoying the most is identifying and collecting the early Spring plants coming up in the woods.  I’m hoping to get a few posts up talking about it and using the blog to stroll through the coming season in all of it’s dirt and loam filled fun. Throw in a host of permaculture projects and you’ve got a party.

I know some of you (ok, maybe only a few of you) are asking, “What about the gaming?”  Welllll, that’s coming along too.  I fully intend to get going with my solo sandbox game very shortly.  Why has it taken so long?  I’m going to let you in on a big secret about all of that and why there’s not been a whole lot posted.  I’ve been stuck.  Yes, stuck.  One, I’m just now getting used to Crazy Rewarding Job which has taken much if not all of my remaining energy.  Two,  I’ve got this horrible problem/habit with creative projects called thinktoomuchitis.  This is a condition where, instead of just doing the damn thing, I tend to daydream and mentally dawdle (typically back and forth to work) about why one subject or idea would not work or I have an idea that I’m concerned needs to be saved for a writing project that I will probably never get done, let alone published.

I think about these things (typically coming home from work) and then, once home, they crash into the realities awaiting me there.  Sometime after dinner I realize I had thought something important and that I must have left it in the car because it’s CERTAINLY not around here and right about the time I decide to go back out to check the car, I fall asleep or fall prey to an online game and THEN fall asleep.  (Go LOTRO!)   The next morning, I wake up, roust the children if they need rousting, prepare for my day, and then it’s off to work where the whole cycle tends to repeat itself.  You turn around, it’s almost May and you think, “Oh!  I had a blog around here somewhere didn’t I!?!”

To sum up those two overly long paragraphs, I’m coming back to the gaming and am trying, REALLY trying, to find an idea that I can just relax and have fun with.  The good news?  I think I may have come across something that might just work.  I think the test here is to not think about it too much and just do it.

When I look back over my New Years Resolutions, I had promised to post at least once a week.  My last post was March 1.  Today is May 1st.  Looking back at my calendar that makes roughly 7 weeks or 7 posts that I owe myself.  I’d like to get caught up by May which means 4 posts for each of the remaining weeks.  This means 11 to 12 posts before the end of the month.  Thankfully, I’m not too worried.  Those posts may not be huge but I think I’ve got enough material between Mother Nature, Gaming and “The Big Surprise” in the next two weeks that I can do it no problem.  Anyone out there care to cheer lead for me?

What’s that?  What?  Did I say something about a Big Surprise?  Oh, no, I don’t think I did.

You must have been hearing things…

End of Winter

For the first time in a few years we are experiencing an actual Winter in the Midwest.    It hit  around the Winter Solstice and it’s not let up since.  Snow, sleet, and ice have been our constant companions.  I have always enjoyed this time of year and the feel of cold air.  It lets me know I’m alive.  This year, for the first time in a long time, I’m ready to be done.

Our house has been pretty cold this year.  I’m sure that’s part of it.  Even with the wood stove going, the exterior rooms get pretty chilly.  It’s not unusual to have a coat on over your sweater or, my favorite, wrapping a favorite blanket around you.  I’ve lived in colder housing, that is for sure.  Two winters in a yurt will change your perspective of cold weather for the rest of your life.  Still, I’m noticing the cold is starting to get to me.  Maybe it’s just the constant gray?

Earlier this week and before the current round of bleary weather moved in I listened to the siren call of our woods and took a small hike after work.  The woods were quiet, still and damp as I slowly worked my way down the steep ridge and to my goal, the creek.  To my right I heard the snapping of branches and saw something that warmed my heart.  A whitetail doe moving through, limping on her three good legs.

I first saw her just before the blizzard in December and I was worried for her.  She had either been hit by a car or had taken a fall somewhere because a bloody wound, most likely a break, could be seen up near her right front shoulder.  In the blizzard she was desperately trying to make her way through the rising snowfall and I watched her finally settle using some brush and stone as a windbreak.   I was concerned she would not make it through the next few days but I knew there was little I could do for her.  I did take vegetable bits out to the wood line for her once a week or so but, regardless, Nature would take her course.  A week after the storm, I saw her again.  Then, nothing for many many weeks.  I assumed that she had fallen to Winter and I made the decision to go looking for her body when the weather broke in the Spring.

Making my walk down the hill I could plainly see I had been mistaken.  She was moving better than before and, alarmed by my presence, she worked herself away, limping and hopping between the bare trees and the grey stones lying on the hillside.  I stood still and gave her no further cause to run or panic.  Seeing her gave me perspective and made me smile.  What a powerful lesson about survival.

It’s been snowing and cloudy here for about four days straight.  The wind this week is a damp one which cuts into your exposed skin if you are out too long.  I needed a break from work yesterday and took a stroll.  I was thinking about how much I was craving the sunshine, some warmth and, if possible, a bit of color.   Walking by a maple tree I noticed it’s tips were the very first red-brown buds.  I took it as a promise.

A message which whispers, “just a few more weeks.”

On My Mind – Giving It Back

I work in a job that takes a lot out of me during the week.  Fortunately, I don’t mind because it’s my way of giving back for all the awesome I have in my life right now.  I think it’s important to give back.  Honestly, it’s not just important, it’s crucial.  It completes a powerful circuit, a circuit that once you touch it there’s a realization that it’s as important as water, food and breathing.   A circuit that, in turn, gives back to you.  “Giving back” or “Paying it forward” to me is THE perpetual motion machine that our society has been striving to find.

However, as I instruct the people I work with during my work week, there’s a trick to it.  You can’t give back with the intention of the machine actually working.  You can’t hand someone a ten dollar bill and then think to yourself,  “I can’t wait to see what I get back for doing this!”  It’s not going to happen because, you see, it just doesn’t work that way.  The reasoning is wrong.  The source of the thought comes from a flawed place and it’s simple selfishness.  You have to give that ten dollar bill, that hour, that dinner, that surprise to the person behind you in the drive-thru line with no thought whatever of getting anything from it.  You have to do it because you know it’s a good thing to do.

You have to do it and then forget it ever happened.

Ultimately, it’s not about the material and it’s not about religion.  You can share a laugh, a smile, a hug or a simple hand on someone’s shoulder.  It can be about putting your shit to the side for just a few minutes to let a beleaguered cashier  know you sincerely want them to have a good or, at least, a better day.  THIS is what makes us human.

I was about to craft a post about my FU hacks and my recovery from the flu monsters of woe.  This idea of give back was on my mind and as I started to write it just sort of took over.  It was on my mind because I was thinking about how I wanted to do something through this blog.  I have other plans for my creativity and money making and it doesn’t involve this blog.  I want this blog to be my form of give back.

I’m thinking of gaming but I’m also thinking about nature observation, survival skills, etc.  However, I’m good at gaming and game design and it’s on my mind right now.  I’ve done it for a very long time and it really is a passion of mine.  I want to get my FU hacks done and my solo campaign going because I want to offer it out there for free.   I’d like to show someone how it’s possible to entertain yourself or just come up with a good story that you might want to write later.  If a game world gets built here then it will be free for anyone to use.  How cool would that be to have a living, breathing game world here built from the foundation of giving back?  I, personally,  think it would be pretty cool.

If nothing else the posts here will hopefully be entertaining and that, by itself, is a form of give back.