Ah…. wow… er… ah…

I came upon this over on one of the blogs I follow on the Tumblr. Bushcrafters gone wild!

It pretty much epitomizes everything I’m not likely to do when I go out camping.

Talk about “Leave No Trace”~~ Two dozen+ live trees cut for unnecessary [and U.G.L.Y., and disfunctional, and inefficient] shelter, and a hacked up stump. I just hope this was their own property. If it was public use land, or a state park, I’d be pretty upset finding this on my trip down the trail. However, from the amount of gear, I’m guessing they didn’t walk in very far.

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Fireflies

In Western culture alone, they carry “a vast network of associations including such distinct and even contradictory significances as childhood, crop, doom, elves, fear, habitat change, idyll, love, luck, mortality, prostitution, solstice, stars and fleetingness of words and cognition,” wrote Stefan Ineichen, a firefly researcher in Switzerland, in a 2016 paper published in Advances in Zoology and Botany.

Short documentary Brilliant Darkness: Hotaru in the Night

“Quechua speakers in the Andes call fireflies añañahui, or “ghost eyes.”… 

I just call them a beautiful wonder in the night…

>>Full Article Link<<

“Gone In 60 Seconds”

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to doing a post on foraging. I regularly go out for fiddleheads in the spring, as well as young poke and watercress. I grew up on Euell  Gibbons classic books  “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” and “Stalking the Wild Scallop”, both of which taught me a lot about the things that you can eat from the wild… and what you can’t.

One of the most popular things to forage for are of course wild mushrooms. The taste of morels and chanterelles puts anything from the grocery store to shame.

Anyway, the other day I looked up my side window and saw a large white ball in the grass alongside my driveway. I don’t live where kids can knock a softball up into my yard. Puzzled, I went out to look. What it turned out to be was a giant puffball mushroom. This is one of the few mushrooms that you can find that falls under the category “hard to mistake”. I grabbed it up, and scurried inside in excitement.

 

IMPORTANT FAQ AND DISCLAIMER:

THERE IS RISK THOUGH! [Don’t try this at home, kiddies] Many edible mushrooms can be very, very hard to differentiate from those that are less than edible, and might be fatally poisonous! Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!

From the net: “Calvatia [species] are fairly easy to identify as long as you know these mushrooms are in a specific class which have no gills inside, they are just fluff all throughout which later turns itself into its own spores, which then are released with the help of an animal, or human who can’t resist smushing or kicking it, and are dispersed by the wind….. Most Calvatia species are edible as long as the inside is pure white; I am not aware of any that aren’t.”

OK. You’ve been warned. Do your own research and assume your own risk.

At this point I will reveal that I DID survive eating the previous slices the other night. This one was indeed a real “puffball”. [Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!]

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It is shown here already cut in half thru the top, but with several of the larger slices already removed [and consumed!] You can see the soft white flesh that resembles marshmallow both in color and feel. Very delicate and slightly spongy… much more delicate than store bought ones.  This is one of the characteristics that make these relatively easy to identify [againDon’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!]

    

For mine I just dredged the slices in a thin flour wash with a little cornmeal added, and pan-fried them for a couple of minutes on each side until they had browned lightly.

Done this way, I find the taste to be that of a fine, delicate mushroom-cheese omelet… just all-in-one. And, Yes… it was “Gone In 60 Seconds”.

If this interests you, get someone knowledgeable to take you out foraging. There are “mycological societies” [mushroom clubs] all over. They are surprisingly easy to find, and the people are happy to share their expertise. Here in southern Maine, we have people who are actually making a living foraging mushrooms, wild herbs, and exotic greens for the up-and-coming, frou-frou, locally-sourced restaurants. And we are just going into prime mushrooming season here from Aug-Oct. BUT…Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!

 

“Flash Loops”

Made this proof-of-concept up yesterday morning out of scrap line lying around on the coffee table.

Amsteel “dogbone” with GlowWire spliced into it to create daisy-chain loops for hanging gear.

Under tension, the hollow-core, braided amsteel lengthens and that constricts the line around the buried portions of the GlowWire like Chinese handcuffs. If the loops do pull thru and become unnecessarily longer, they can simply be tugged back open since they just lie against the amsteel.

Good for small gear on carabiners, hanging your shoes, or just stuff passed thru the loops.

These could be made right into the lower portions of a Whoopie Sling hammock suspension. With patience, they could probably be done in the smaller 1.75mm dyneema lines like Lash-It, and used on a fixed ridgeline between the ends of a hammock as well.

[… if it’s not clear, the running ends of the loop line are passed around the amsteel and then buried back inside toward the loops]

“Elevate Your Perspective”~ a Full Sub-$100 Hammock Setup

To look for the Perseids meteor shower, I decided to try out my “cheap” stuff for a hang last night out in my yard nook.
I wanted to make the point to any n00bs to the hammock hanging adventure who might find this post that a full setup doesn’t have to break the bank. I also wanted to be sure that what I might be loaning out to “elevate someone’s perspective” wasn’t a complete POS.

This whole setup comes in at under $100US.

  • generic ENO/GT clone- branded “White Mountain” $20
  • Rolling Fox diamond tarp- 11’x 9′ on the diagonals- $32 [w/ suspension/tieout paracord and steel stakes][Strangely enough, the stakes were not pointed at all.. just flat cut… and HEAVY]
  • TQ and UQ Diy-ed from two CDTs- $40 the pair
  • straps from Harbor Freight- $4
  • [toss in the illuminated yard stake/trek pole- $5 at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop and we go to $101]

I’m not going to count the upgrade mods to suspension, stakes etc. since that was from stuff that I was already out of pocket for any way, and wouldn’t be any big whup to the basic experience if it hadn’t been already done.

 

As far as the hammock goes, just about all of these ENO/GT [EaglesNestOutfitters/GrandTrunk] clones will be basically identical. They nearly all come from the same factories in China, and are of the same, non-ripstop parachute fabric. I would suggest that you not get the “double” hammocks unless you are a really big person. My experience is that the extra width [beyond 58″] just means you have a lot of loose cloth flapping in your face.  I personally don’t see any point in paying the brand-name prices for this kind of hammock. Amazon shows prices today ranging from $ 54 95$ 130 33 on ENO Single Nests. That difference buys you most of the rest of the kit described in this post.

Sleeping last night in this White Mountain hammock: I will have to admit that I was hyper aware of the seams from the clone’s 3-piece construction [40″ center strip w/9″ side piecings]. They were more annoying than anything, and were worst up along my shoulder, but certainly weren’t a deal breaker. Once I was down for the count, I slept fine. They made me assume that the clone was narrower than the 58″ full-width fabrics that are standard on the netless hammocks from our “cottage” vendors, but when I measured it this morning for this post it came in at the full 58″. This particular hammock goes 9’8″ fabric end-to-end. This is also shorter than the offerings from the cottage vendors, most of which are available from 10′-12′.

These differences in size and construction, together with the less stretchy, ripstop fabric options the cottage vendors offer, are the prime reason so many folks move on from the hammocks available in the big-box stores.
As a $20 hammock, and for a day-hanger/napper and starting place for hammocking, it is just fine. If it had come in at ENO$$, I’d certainly recommend spending that same $$ on a netless from the Hammock Forum vendors. [My first hammock was a Grand Trunk Double. I spent a few nights in it, got a little education over on hammockforums.net, and sent it back for a refund. That $70 went toward the cost of my AMOK Draumr and I never looked back.]

The 12′ poly straps from Harbor Freight are meant to be cam-cinched with a come-along ratchet for use on pickups and SUV racks. A quick hacksaw job to remove the ratchets and you have decent enough pair of straps. They are not daisy-chain looped, so you do have to learn to tie a larks-head hitch and use a toggle, but they can just be passed through their own end loops at the tree end. Cheap and easy!

 

The Rolling Fox diamond shaped tarp is new to me in the last few days. I wanted something mostly as a dew cover for fair weather hanging, and to use as a sunshade. The diamond cut appealed to me since it would mean I could rig it narrow-wise as well for a deeper shade when in a camp chair during the day. I do have some concern because the ridgeline [in the 11′ orientation] is seamed, and does not appear to have been seam-sealed. I like the tarp well enough that I will take that chance and seal it if I have to. [Besides, this vendor does offer a “lifetime, 100% money-back guarantee!”. I was in touch with him about the ridge, and he gave me his assurance on it.]

This one is what I had on hand and fit the cost limits. There are many other tarps on Amazon and elsewhere that come in at the same relative price point. If you want a square one, or cat-cut sides, go that way. This whole post is just to point out what you CAN get in the hundred dollar range. They are all going to be in a heavier [maybe 50%-70%] fabric, but they will be PU-waterproofed, and will certainly keep you dry. Up your purchase by a few bucks and you can step up to a 10’x 13′ hex-cut from YuEdge. [I thought about that one myself, just to have an extra rain tarp for bad days]. Go another few dollars and you can get a fully catenary cut 12′ x 12′ tarp from Mountainsmith. Most of them will not be made from a ripstop fabric, though some are and some aren’t.

With these low cost, entry-level tarps the one thing to shy away from is selecting one just because they “include” stakes, tie-out lines, and carabiners. These “bonuses” are all going to be cheaper, heavier, and far, far crummier than you are going to want in the long run. [For example, nothing that was included with the Fox tarp really made the grade]. Plus, these items are so easy to upgrade or source yourself that they are simply a waste of your money.  The same thing applies to the hammock suspensions. They are the first thing you are probably going to want to change out. Once you have tried getting the knots out of a swollen rope suspension, you will know what we are talking about. Doing these items on your own isn’t going to add much to your budget, but will give a lot more satisfaction.

 

I am not going into detail* about turning the Costco Down Throws into top and under-quilts. All I will tell you is that the CDTs are much better value than any others I have seen. Nicer material, higher volume/ better quality down, excellent construction, incredible loft for the cost… and possibly most import to a conversion, a full 60″x 70″ size. I don’t care if the brand is Eddie Bauer, BedBath&Beyond or any other reputable one… Accept No Substitutes! You will not get as good a finished project for your $$, time, and efforts. [and the good news is that they are already back in stock at many Costcos for the 2017-18 season]

If you want to save money, you can skip investing in a TQ altogether for a long while. Any sleeping bag will get you through. However, wriggling into and out of a regular or mummy bag once you are in your hammock is a real PITA. Instead, just open the zip to the foot and use it as an open quilt on top. You can even cut off the zipper and do a drawstring footbox with some ribbon loops easily enough.

If you can’t afford to go for a UQ, you can get a really reasonable rest on a closed-cell foam pad. Wally’s has one for $14. That said, after your hammock and tarp, I think most experienced hammockers would tell you to go for a UQ. The pads, even high cost insulated ones like ThermaRest, are notoriously hard to stay on top of in a hammock. None of the cheapo hammocks have double layer fabric pockets that help hold a pad in place, so , if you can, go for a UQ.

* Instuctables on CDT conversions are all over the web.

So, yada-yada complete… what was my “cheap night out” like. I’d have to say it was better than OK. Certainly better than I remember from my ground-dweller days. No rocks, lumps and sticks poking me in the back. No crawling around on damp ground. No crinkly ground sheet. I won’t have any problem loaning this whole setup out for somebody wanting to “elevate their perspective”. If I didn’t have my experience so far, I would probably give it a real thumbs up. Will I keep using my higher quality gear? …Duh!

Now, the hanging was “OK”, but the Perseids had peaked Friday and Saturday nights, so I only saw a couple of tracers. However, it was wickud clear, and the Milky Way was spectacular.
Basically, I was in a hammock…Out under the stars… what’s not to like?

2nd Jacket… [semi] fail

At the same time I ordered the “Aqua Shoes” just below, I got a second Ghost Whisperer clone… this time with a hood. I wanted to see if the zipper would be in the more standard, right-hand orientation… Nope!  That must just be how they make’em in China these days.

There were only slight other difference between this hooded unit and the >>original<< I reviewed back in June. Most notably, this has several more down channels up the body. Good loft once you let it fluff up, same nice gunmetal blue color.

The reason it is a “semi”-fail is that the size is really at variance with the first one. The first fit quite loosely in a 2XXL… now this one is way to snug over my fat belly in a 1XL. That is always the risk you take buying any “sized” item over the internet, and even moreso with size choices on the Chinese items… buyer beware! However, since this “fail” came in at only $14.89 [shipped], I am not going to the hassle of return. It can just go in the stuff sack as a >> dedicated down pillow <<like I found so convenient with the first one. If I really-truly decide I want a hooded jacket, I can grab another in a size up.