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Springtime Dandelions: 3 Uses You Have to Know

One of the memories I have of my childhood, (I won’t call them fond so as to avoid deception), was that of my old grandma gathering a spring mix of greens for the family to eat. Now, to those of you who are less cultured, “greens” amongst the mountain people is actually an accumulation of any leafy weed that sprouts up from the recently thawed ground. For some reason, it was thought that fresh and tender equaled edible, and while that might have been true for the most part, it certainly didn’t equal palatable.

However, this isn’t true for dandelion greens. These are not only palatable, they are downright tasty and I’m actually surprised that they aren’t included in most spring mix salads you can get at the grocery store, considering their prevalence across the landscape.

In any event, here are three uses for the common dandelion that every serious outdoorsman or survivalist must know:

  1. They are edible. Both the yellow flowers and the leafy greens associated with the plant are food worthy. My favorite way to eat them is to have the flowers fried in batter like a hushpuppy (called fritters), and to have the greens freshly washed and sprinkled with vinegar and oil. I’ve also had them boiled like spinach with bacon and onion.
  2. They are potable. You can actually make a coffee of sorts out of the dandelion root. You can literally do  this with any root, but dandelion coffee is pretty ok, compatible at least with chicory coffee, (neither is as good as the real thing). To make the dandelion coffee, you must finely chop the root and then parch it in a pan over low heat of a fire. When it is brown and brittle, grind it up as you would coffee beans and brew as you would coffee… it’ll get you through some cold nights.
  3. They have down that is multifunctional. Whenever the flower goes to seed it leaves a head of down that can be used to enhance your tinder bundle, or if gathered in enough quantity, add insulation to clothing or bedding to create dead air space.

 

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Uncle John’s Truck: The Final Chapter

…As cliché as it sounds, the drive up into mountains was like a dream. I sipped hot coffee from one of my dad’s Stanley  thermoses as I huddled comfortably in the drivers seat in a fleece lined, camouflage, hooded sweatshirt my mom had bought me at the local hardware store on clearance.

Life was good right then and right there; I felt young and old, independent and vulnerable, lonesome and fulfilled. This was the closest thing to a grand adventure that I had experienced up to that time. The Pirelli tires I had recently purchased for Uncle John’s truck chewed the gravel of the country road that led to my mom’s new woodlot.

It was still dark when I got to deer camp, (I had basically left the night before and drove all night). And I grabbed some sleep nestled in the warm front seat of the truck. I woke up from my snooze well after dawn and immediately set up my camp. I backed the truck down to  the little creek that meandered through the property and pitched grandpa’s old Army tent about 10 yards away from the bank. I chose to have it facing the creek so that I could sit in the front of the tent at night and look out over the glistening rocks and rippling flow of water as I drank camp coffee in the moonlight. I was going to be here a week by myself and had three deer tags to fill.

It was a little past noon when I had finally set up the tent and had cut enough fire wood to last me the day. I was hungry, so decided to make some oatmeal in my cookpot and sprinkled some brown sugar and almonds into it as I sat back in my camp chair and enjoyed the semi-warm weather. In a few minutes I planned to go find a likely spot to set up my tree stand and to throw a bag of apples and turnips out around it. As I was blowing on the steaming thick mass of chewy goodness I heard splashing.

I turned to see a good buck crossing the creek. He was about an eight point, not too big and young; maybe a three year old. His nose was to the ground like he was trailing a doe but he was in the water. He stopped and looked directly at me and huffed. I think he was commenting on the smell of my oatmeal. He didn’t seem overly impressed in any way. “it’s going to be a good hunt”, I thought as he meandered on down the creek line, leaving me to my oatmeal.

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Uncle John’s Truck: The, (next to), Final Chapter

That Fall arrived subtly, it was a very smooth transition and arrived more from the acknowledgement of the date on the calendar than it did from an awareness of the change of season. It had been a fairly mild winter, not too sunny and mostly rain for some reason. This had made it pretty insignificant in regards to the various sportsman adventures that I was used to having. Political unrest in the venue my dad worked at kept him pretty busy and he didn’t have much time to run to our fishing hole, even on the days that were nice and sunny.

And so I went about my routine, I was working at McDonald’s still even though I had finished my training. I was volunteering at two different fire departments, and since that was my passion, I focused my energy there. But with the advent of deer season coming into the scene, I suddenly started getting buck fever.

Over the summer my grandpa had died and he had left my mom some acreage in the woods of hilly eastern Ohio. It was a long way from where we live, but it was definitely teeming with wildlife and I decided that I was going to have a deer hunt there to enjoy my first deer camp as a full grown man, (I had just recently turned 18), and would be eligible to finally hunt without adult supervision. I also wanted to test myself as I had never been in any sort of survival or wilderness situation without the supervision of my dad or older brother.

I took advantage of the local Black Friday Sales to purchase a deer stand and a really good sleeping bag. My dad offered up grandpas old military surplus army tent for me to use since work wasn’t going to be able to let him go to the regular deer camp we usually pitched that year…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 5)

… I can’t really describe the taste of those fresh fish fillets fried over a hot little fire on the river bank. I was by myself which wasn’t really what I preferred, (my dad had other obligations over the weekend), but even so, as I settled into the little bedroll I had pitched in the bed of Uncle John’s truck and I listened to the screech owls scream at each other in the creek bottoms, I couldn’t really imagine that life could get much better.

I was wrong about that.

It was a few weekends later that my church youth group announced that there would be a creek run and that we would be participating. For those of you who are uneducated, a creek run consists of gathering any and everything that will support your weight through buoyancy, and floating it down the river. While you’re doing this you will be laughing, splashing, fishing, and trying your best to drown yourself and all your friends. It was a really great time, and unlike in the past, where I would have had to ask my dad to strap the two kayaks to his Subaru and take me to the drop off, this time I was able to throw both kayaks in the back of Uncle John’s truck and head out by myself. I also invited along the particular object of my affections at the time. Unfortunately for me I hadn’t bothered to tie my swim trunks particularly tight, and while I was showing off at some point they came of and got swept away in the current. I ended up having to borrow the object of my affection’s towel to wrap around my naked waist, and then I had to drive her home with no pants on. And “that” so they say, “was the end of that”.

Summer was a true blast in that truck, regardless of my failed attempts to woo the opposite sex, but the real excitement of having a truck came with the fall and winter…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 4)

…On that same note that truck was maintained pristinely. Uncle john was a Dodge man. When I first met him he drove a Dodge Rampage and worked at a water bottling company. The fact that he was the type of guy who could keep a Dodge Rampage on the road for at least twenty years after all the rest of them were gone should tell you something.

Somehow, my Aunt Kathi told my dad that Uncle John hadn’t actually sold his old truck yet, and my jaw dropped when Uncle John called me and told me he would let me have his truck for the amount of the insurance settlement on my car. My dad and I wasted no time getting the title transferred,  and just like that; I found myself the proud owner of a well maintained Dodge truck that had been immaculately taken care of.

The acquisition of this truck opened a whole new world to me. Where before I had been somewhat limited in my hunting and fishing forays, ( an older model Ford Focus will not get you very far), the advent of Uncle John’s trucks was like having a passport to a whole new world. The first trip I took was out to the New Miami River to have an overnight camping and kayaking excursion. My dad and I had each bought a kayak a couple of years before and whenever we went kayaking together, we would stow them on a rack on the roof of his Subaru Impreza and we would go. However, we wouldn’t go very far because a Subaru Impreza won’t actually go much farther than a Ford Focus will.

My dad had gotten some fishing pole holders and had installed them in our kayaks by using a doorknob cutter on a cordless drill and some marine rivets. So that first night on the river I spent fishing from my kayak and catching crappie and smallmouth bass in the river inlets…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 2)

… The car that stopped in front of me was pretty straightforward. The lady driving the heavy Ford Expedition pulled up to the stoplight and ceased all motion as planned, I followed suit, and the guy in the F350 dually – which was directly behind me – blew it!

The crunch was horrendous as everything moved in slow motion around me. I remember thinking back to every modern action movie I had ever seen, with “The Matrix” taking a predominate spot in my rumination. As the shattered glass, bits of plastic, and personal items that had been sitting in the seat beside me began to dance in strange rhythm around my head, and the ass end of that Expedition loomed menacingly in my windshield preluded by the crumpled metal that had just milliseconds before been the hood of my car, it occurred to me that I could be injured and I experienced a strange calm and quieting.

Suddenly everything sprang into motion and I could hear a horrible cacophony of sound. There were car alarms sounding, the tinkle of glass, loud honking, and the memory of that never ending thud of being battered from both ends by vehicles far larger than mine.

My first thought was for the injured. By this point in my training I had adopted the mindset of a first responder, and grabbing my medical kit from the floorboard where it had landed, I pulled the door handle on my car and threw my body weight into the door. It squeaked open grudgingly, and in a moment I was free. In my periphery, I could discern that the Expedition was driven by a young woman, mid-twenties to early thirties. The truck I had seen was driven by an older man. I had noticed this somehow as I glanced in the rearview mirror after stopping at the light, and saw that he had a dogged, determined look on his face as he barreled into the back of my car; I don’t think he even saw me or the Expedition for that matter…

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Survival News: Reviewing the Tom Brown Jr. Tracker™ Knife

I have been a survivalist for about thirty-five years now. I have also been a student of Tom Brown Jr.; having attended his standard class twice in the late 80’s. Back when I started learning this type of bushcraft, it was standard to head out into the wilderness with at least a bowie knife and a tomahawk. Those days; however, are over it seems. This is because my beloved teacher and mentor, Tom Brown Jr. himself, has created his own brand of knife that he has named the Tracker™. This knife, (made popular by a movie of the same namesake), truly seems to be the “be all-end all” in relation to survival tools, and here’s why:

  1. It has a chopping blade. The front end of the blade is not only useful for the fine skill usage such as skinning or separating bone, it’s also heavy enough to fulfill other needs such as cutting down saplings, breaking apart bone, or even throwing if the need were to arrive.
  2. It has a wood splitter. Another function of the tomahawk was that of splitting or shaping pieces of wood to make axe handles, bow drills, etc… The Tracker knife has a back portion of the blade that is perfect for splitting with an offset portion of the blade set aside for precision striking.
  3. It serves as a notch cutter. Often you find the need to carve notches for survival, making a survival bow or building a bow-drill fire set for instance. The top of the blade is serrated to make cutting notches very easy to do.
  4. There are many other functions too. Tiny notches on the wedge section of the blade work to trim cordage or cut fuzz sticks. The front and rear lanyard holes,  (on the handle and the kydex sheath respectively), serves in a pinch as a makeshift bow for a bow-drill, the offset curve of the wedge serves as a perfect surface for fleshing a hide.
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New muzzle loading technology: 3 reasons why the firestick must be a gamechanger

If you are a traditionalist like I am, then you probably have a .54 Hawken™ rifle lying around somewhere. Some of my fondest memories come from shuddering in the cold wind, fingers trembling, as I tried desperately to shake granulated black powder into my nipple hole to get a shot at a deer who is standing in a meadow, contentedly watching me with a bemused look on his face, because my ignition system had failed due to condensation of gunmetal and moist black powder…

Well, those days are over. They actually have been for a while with the development of the Pyrodex™ pellet system. But the need for a possibles bag and multi function process to effectively hunt with  muzzle loader is now even more streamlined and we are coming to a place where we can leave our possibles bags at home.

This new technology is called the Firestick™ and it has been developed by Federal Firearms Corporation. This new development still loads the round through the barrel, effectively keeping it a “primitive” firearm; however, the charge comes in the form of a plastic casing, similar in form to the old 45-70 Springfield Buffalo Gun, (the 1873 Trapdoor). This casing fits neatly into the rear of your supported in-line firearm, right behind your sabot round. There is a hole in the back for your primer to fit into.

This round is the equivalent to a modern rifle round and is nearly infallible while still meeting the criteria for muzzle loading rifles. This means that every animal on the face of the earth is now susceptible to primitive hunting. Here are three reasons this technology will be a game changer:

  1. You can keep all of your rounds together in one place. No more searching and digging in different pockets and pouches for a quick reload.
  2. The rifle won’t foul as quickly. This new technology is cleaner than traditional black powder and therefore won’t dirty your rifle.
  3. It’s more accurate and stable. This new technology offers a payload similar to a modern high powered rifle.
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Treasure hunting 101: The Legend of Forge Hamilton

We have all heard, I’m sure, about the famous Lost Dutchman’s Mine near the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

But there is another legend of that era as well, and with this legend are rumors of a treasure that has also never been found. This is the legend of “Forge Hamilton”.

Not related to Alexander Hamilton, the founding father, Forge Hamilton is said to have made his way west after immigrating alone to America from northern Ireland where he hammered out his trade as a blacksmith. All blacksmiths were horseshoers in those days, and Forge, (his true name is unknown), is rumored to have been one of the best horseshoers around. Decades ahead of his time, it is said that Forge could watch a horse through his three gaits; walk, trot, and canter, and make a shoe that would keep it sound for months to come.

Like most Irishmen, Forge was as tough as nails and was said to be good with a gun. He was even tempered but tough and he would often hire out to the stagecoach companies to ride shotgun and to keep the horses shod, killing two birds with one stone for the stagecoach companies. It was the wild west after all, and in that area of the country gold was king and plentiful, and murder and mayhem abounded.

There had been a rash of bushwhacking in the Phoenix area,  and everyone was on edge. Prospectors had been found all over the desert with their heads busted open and their gold depleted; however, no-one was able to find out where the gold was going. The territory marshal was keeping an eye on the assayers offices for anyone with a large amount of gold dust that was uncommon, and the sheriff and city police were searching all of the parcels and outgoing wagon parties and stagecoaches. It wasn’t until a local boy, who enjoyed watching the sparks at night from the horses hooves as they trudged over the exposed granite ledge on the trail out of town, raised a ruckus about the stagecoach horses not throwing sparks that the mystery was solved.

It turns out that Forge Hamilton was waylaying the miners in their camps, stealing their gold dust and smelting it into bars that he forged into horseshoes and nailed to the stagecoach horses as he rode shotgun to Denver, where he would switch the shoes with iron ones and then sell the gold far from where he was stealing it.

He confessed before his hanging, but he would not tell anyone where his trove of golden horseshoes was stashed. His house and shop were ransacked, but no golden horseshoes were ever found.

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Apocalypse survival: 3 must have critters for the coming storm

If you have been watching the news at all lately, then you are aware that the nation and even the world are on the precipice of volatility.

Therefore, it would behoove you to be prepared for any upcoming problems and you don’t even really have to change your lifestyle much.

The fact of the matter is that as a species, on the whole, humans are highly dependent on animals. Not only do we eat them, we are also dependent on them in other ways. So, taking that in mind, here are three animals that you must have right now to function in a coming crisis.

  1. A really good dog. Pictured here is an Australian Blue Heeler Cattle Dog. These are my favorite picks as a survival dog for many reasons. First they are full of energy and very smart. Next they are easily trained and very loyal. Lastly they are herders by nature, and not only will they defend your pack, (family), but they will control and corral other animals as well. (There’s no telling what you might wake up and find in your camp in the morning).
  2. A sheep or a goat. Not only can these things live on nearly anything, but they are meat in hard times, and milk and heat in better times. You’ve heard I’m sure of a “three dog night”, one in which it was so cold that you need three dogs in bed with you to stay warm, well the going consensus is that a three dog night is equal to a one got night, or a half sheep night.
  3. Some chickens. Chickens are great for many things. Not only do they offer food in the form of meat and eggs, but they offer feathers for warmth and crafts, and they make excellent alarms for more than just the crack of dawn. They will shriek and raise hell whenever confronted by any predator.
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