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!
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!
A Quick Oak Gall Ink update
We are coming up on the end of the two week period of the oak galls soaking in their mixture. Unfortunately, on day 14, I will be gone all day performing on the Firefhouse Follies Radio Show which I’m going to link here because you KNOW you want to give it a listen! (Sunday, 3/5, 4 PM EST, Live on the air and the internet!) The plan is to take an evening after work to finally get the ink together and to see how it all goes.
My newest addition to the experiment has been deciding to extract my own iron mixture. The plan is to use a little of it for part of the mixture and then ferrous sulfate for the other half. This way, I can see if the homemade iron mixture works at all while still (hopefully) getting some working ink from the basic recipe.
Again, this is all experimentation on my part, my idea of having fun. I really don’t know what I’m doing. As long as I don’t explode something in my kitchen I should be ok and can continue to live with the ever-patient Otter Wife! If nothing else, the folks out there reading this that do know what you are doing can get a chuckle. I’m not proud. For some light chemistry reading, check out this link.
I created the iron mixture this way. On my latest walk to my nearby creek, I kept my eyes open for rusty bits of metal. I found a nail and some other unidentifiable bits and deemed my quest a success! (The glob of “stuff” on the left is a chunk of pine tar I foraged to add to my fire pouch.)
After some pounding and bending, I placed these in a baby food jar with a solution of white vinegar and water. I used one tblspn vinegar to about 4 tblspn of water. Then, I let it sit. the vinegar goes to work on the metal and wah-lah you have, uh, something that should work! A similar thing works with vinegar and steel wool to create a wood stain.
The jars have been sitting now for several days in a window that gets sunlight every day for about 6 – 8 hours. Things are starting to look… funky.
My current prediction is that the ink that is created with the ferrous sulfate will probably turn out much better. The ink created by my goofy homebrew will be a bit more gray and possibly just crap. Both inky potions will still not be able to hold a candle to something I could go to the store to buy. See? Science!!!
Also, as a late addition, I stumbled upon this incredible link entitled Making Ink. It makes for some great information.
During 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.
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.
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!
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.
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
With 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.
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!
As I kick off this blog-restart, I want to write about one particular subject that changed things for me. It will be referenced in future posts but I promise I’ll try to keep the volume down a bit. I don’t want to sound like I am proselytizing. I just want to put it all in one place so it’s understandable to the audience when I reference it down the road. I want to give credit where credit is due before moving forward.
Back in the later months of last year I was having a pretty rough time. I was super stressed, not sleeping well and my anxiety was out of control. I had breakfast with a dear friend and they said to me, “You gotta get out of your head. Your mind has completely taken you over.” I brushed it off at first but he persisted, “Tell you what, have you ever heard of a guy named Eckhart Tolle?” He then went on about him, his ideas and his books, encouraged me to watch some youtube videos.
I’m not going to go much further than that because I think you see where this is headed. The next day I started to read a PDF copy of his book, “The Power of Now.” It immediately had my attention. Two days later, I owned a hardback copy and, to this day, I still carry it with me. I read the book in a week and then, in a funny set of circumstances, my wife stumbled across of a copy of “A New Earth” for a few bucks at a used book store. I devoured it as well.
Tolle’s main point in his work is that nothing in this world is more powerful than mindfulness in the present moment, the Now. Here is a saying that helps to sum up Tolle’s theme.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past, If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
~~ Lao Tzu ~~
It was perfect timing from the Universe at large. When I read the first book, it was like being handed the final piece of a puzzle. A puzzle I had been fussing over most of my adult life. I began to practice the simple things the book suggested. Over the course of a month wonderful things began to happen. I began to change internally and, because of this, the world began to change around me. I began to have energy again. I began to sleep again. A clarity began to emerge. I was laughing more. In the physical world, a new, less stressful and better paying job appeared out of nowhere.
I am not going to lie. The first month of November and the following holidays were hard. Tolle’s ideas are that our Ego, both a personal Ego and the overall Ego of humanity is out of control. In a Buddhist sense, we are letting the dark monkey lead the elephant. By taking on daily practice of awareness and mindfulness I was directly challenging the Ego. Needless to say, the Ego, who had been running the show for the past 40+ years, was not happy. The first few weeks I would literally have physical pain in my chest when I began to go into deep meditation. Random panic attacks would spring up over the silliest of things.
However, as Tolle recommended, I kept at it. I kept it simple and non-judgmental. Heck, I’m STILL working at it. I always will be. Yet, as the days and weeks and months went by I noticed improvements. My chest pain faded and in it’s place I started to feel a warmth. (I started calling it “hitting the groove.’) Then, I started to practice all day and I started to realize that I was, for the first time, having long periods of happiness. More importantly, I started to notice how many other people were not happy. I think that was, and is, the most painful part for me.
In March/April, I went through a pretty difficult life event. The lack of sleep arose like a returning demon. The tightness in my chest returned as I worked through the event. I was reminded of one of the most powerful phrases, “This too shall pass…” I used all the tools I had been given, floated onward and through the other side about as gracefully as I could have hoped. It was at that point, in late April, that I felt something deep down click, like tumblers in a lock, and I realized I had found something I can only call “my Way” again.
Yes, Eckhart Tolle changed my life. I owe quite a bit to him and I will never forget how I felt halfway through the “Power of Now“, how I consumed that book like a starving man at his first big meal. He, himself, states that all he is has done is take the great wisdom, from Buddhism, Christianity, Sufism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Taoism and many others and simply re-state it for modern consumption. In the end, it works and, for me, it’s powerful stuff.
So, as I move forward, I do so with these concepts in mind and I have no doubt it will leak through onto the pages of this blog. I will try to contain my excitement over them.
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.
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.
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?
Of course not.
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…
My son’s new camera has a cool panoramic function. I, of course, felt compelled to take it out with me into the blizzard a few days ago. I love panoramics. I feel they can do a great job of capturing the sweep of a landscape or a setting. I think they did just that and my only regret is that I couldn’t get a more scenic overlook.
Since I’m currently waiting for the next round of snow to hit, my new game to download off of Steam as well as patiently awaiting word that my wife made it safely to her brother’s house in Indy through a snow storm, I spent some time cleaning them up and I thought I’d share them here.
For best results, click on the picture and then click on the 1200x 315 link to get the full size image.