Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mosquito Netting...


I've noticed that the mosquitos are already out! Man...I hate...hate...hate mosquitos. I know hate is a strong word...but that feeling of remorse at having to kill most any of God's creatures is basically non-existent when it comes to them.

It's amazing how some mosquitos buzzing around your head and neck...can just absolutely ruin the fun of being outdoors. Picnics...campouts...gardening...turn into a slap-fest as the victim frantically tries to kill the virtually unseen enemy...before they are attacked. Any success is futile...as they...like a many headed hydra...keep reproducing and relentlessly returning.

The ultimate torture when it comes to mosquitos...is when you are trying to sleep outdoors and you have them buzzing into your ears!!! Good luck sleeping as an army of them suck your blood! I speak from experience. I once slept (apparently) in a mosquito breeding ground with only the clothes on my back and a sheet of plastic. I was eaten alive.

For some people...mosquitos don't seem to bother them much...while others are like a homing beacon of tastiness. Some attribute this to diet...others blood type...whatever the reason...it is wise to be prepared to defend yourself against their onslaughts.

So...they have chemical means of dissuading mosquitos from biting. A really popular ingredient is what is known as DEET. While DEET may be effective...there is a lot of evidence that it may be poor for the users health.

There are store bought natural alternatives...but I don't think any of them are as effective as I'd like for them to be. This also goes for the various plants that can be found in the wild that have repellent qualities.

An inexpensive...and reusable tool to have that could greatly increase the quality of your outdoor life is a simple head mosquito net. They weigh virtually nothing...can be squished down to an insignificant size...and taken care of should last a long time.

Some are made to be worn over your own hat...and some have a built in hat. Some also have rings that are designed to keep it off of your face. I kind of like the idea of having my own hat that I can just throw one over...instead of having the extra weight and bulk of a built in hat...in addition to my regular wearing hat.

These nets are also effective against other insects...like gnats and flies.

You could also consider getting a larger net to protect an area...as opposed to just your face and neck.

Let's not forget the Lord's warning found in the Doctrine and Covenants 29:18 regarding a sobering future event...

"Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth aflies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them;"

And as we know that the Lord "sendeth the rain on the just and unjust."...we would do well to have a way to keep them off of our flesh...whether wicked or righteous!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Scissors Plant is Good Eatin'...


Have you seen this plant before? A lot of people call it the "Scissors Plant"...because you can poke your fingernail through one of the pointy seed pods...then stick another one through it to make them look like scissors. Fun for kids and adults!

If you see the pointy seed pods in the Sacramento area they are likely to be attached to either what is generally called Red Stem Filaree/Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) or California Cranesbill (Geranium californicum)(Not pictured). I'm going to chat a bit about Filaree. (The Cranesbill is also edible but generally not as desired as the Filaree)

The whole plant is edible...though people generally eat just the leaves and stems...and leave the seed pods. One could also potentially harvest the seeds as they have a have a high caloric content. The plant is a good source of protein and fiber...as well as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. They were revered by the Blackfeet and Cahuilla Indians who ate them raw or cooked.

I have known for some time that they are edible...and have snacked on the leaves from time to time...but was a bit put off by the hairy texture...and didn't find the taste exciting. Today I decided to give the plant another chance...cooked.

I washed the Filaree stems and leaves...cut them into no bigger than inch long pieces...and put it into a skillet with some butter. After a brief saute'...I added some raw scrambled eggs and cooked them as I would an omelette or scrambled eggs. I added some salt and pepper and then served it. It was awesome! I had read that it is "Spinach like" in flavor...and found that to be very true! The kids and adults gobbled it down and asked for more...but it was all gone! Next time I will collect more.

If you want to try it...please make 100% sure you have the right plant before you taste anything. Consult foraging books...or the internet to confirm you have the right plant. It should be a pretty easy one to spot. A great one to add to the menu!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Headlamps...


I went up into the attic today to check to see if our old shake roof was holding up to the heavy rains we have been receiving. This chore requires my getting onto a ladder and taking along a flashlight to look around. This time...instead of taking a handheld flashlight...I put on one of our headlamps.

While this may seem self evident to you...I was really struck by how much easier the task was when my hands were free to pull myself up without fumbling with a cumbersome flashlight. I also enjoyed just looking at what I wanted illuminated...and viola!...it was illuminated!

A short while back I experienced the same joyful epiphany while setting up a tent in the dark and having both hands free...as well as when I was playing doctor...taking out slivers. They are super handy doing car work and a host of other applications.

I have purchased a variety of the Energizer brand handlamps. Here are my thoughts on the pro's and con's of the brand...

Pro...

1. They are inexpensive. You can pick them up at Lowes...Home Depot...Target...Walmart...for somewhere around $15.
2. Battery Life - Depending on which one you get...they can run for up to 150 hours on one set of 3 AAA's in night vision mode.
3. They are comfortable. They have a nice soft pad on the back that won't annoy.
4. They have LED's that can take a ton of abuse without breaking.
5. Red LED's to preserve night vision.

Con's...

1. The plastic casing needs to be treated with care. What do you expect for $15!
2. They are not waterproof. While I haven't yet had a problem with one failing...they are not made to get really wet.
3. If it has a button on the top...you have to go through each lighting feature before it will turn off again.
4. The alternate version with a switch on the top can become loose over time...and is prone to get bumped and inadvertently turn on.

Another thing I will say is that bigger is not always better...especially with headlamps. I'd recommend getting the smallest one that will do the job. This one is 3.2 ounces and has 3 LED's...and here is one that is 6.4 ounces and has 7 LED's. That is DOUBLE the weight! While and additional 3.2 ounces may not seem like much weight...once you get it strapped to your head and wear it for any length of time...you will be glad that you got the smaller one. I use the bigger one that I have for around the house activities.

There are other headlamps out on the market that are well liked. Petzl get's great reviews. I just don't have a lot of motivation to pay the $43 to try one out when I have been pleased with the $15 Energizers. I could purchase almost 3 Energizers headlamps for the price of one Petzl!

There are also fancy pants headlamps that run on large battery packs and cost a lot of money.

I should mention too that I have purchased them when I have seen them on sale at Lowes...AND also used coupons that Lowes sends in the mail for double savings. We have purchased them and given them out to Scout aged boys for birthdays...and they were well received.

I store a few in my emergency evacuation bags. I put them in ziploc bags with 3 full sets of batteries...not installed. If you leave them in...you may come back to find that they energy has drained out of the batteries...or that corrosion has made your light inoperable.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bandanas...


While you may not currently be accustomed to using a bandana in your day to day life...here are some reasons why you might consider having a supply of them...to put into your emergency packs or to take with you if you are headed outdoors...

1. It isnt bulky like a hat yet can still keep sun off your head. It can be tied directly onto your head...or stuck into the back of a hat for added neck protection.
2. It can be used to filter air in dusty trail conditions.
3. It can be used to prefilter any dirty water.
4. As a splint or wrap for an injured body part.
5. It is super lightweight, compact able, and affordable.
6. They can be bright colors if it is important to be seen...like for example if you are trying to keep track of family in a crowded place or riding a bike near car traffic. They can also be in muted colors...like if you are in a situation where you are trying to avoid detection.
7. A handkerchief
8. A towel
9. For cleaning wounds (if it's clean!)
10. As a blindfold
11. A headband
12. A rag for cleaning anything
13. To collect morning dew off of plants for drinking.
14. If it is wet down and wrapped around one's neck...it will lower body temperature by cooling the neck and arterial blood flow. This could make you much more comfortable on a really hot day!
15. To tie up long hair to keep it out of the way.
16. To conceal your identity.
17. The possibilities go on and on!

There seem to be two main types of bandanas available on the market. Made in China types of questionable quality...and Made in the USA that more than likely will be of a better quality. They are generally sold made of 100% cotton or as a cotton/poly blend. Personally I would steer towards the all cotton ones...as they should possess greater absorption capabilities. They also vary in size...usually no bigger than 22x22.

Here is a place that sells made in the USA bandanas. This place has made in the USA and imports...a broad variety of styles...and can even custom print logos.

I have read where people have called a bandana "The outdoorsmans best friend"...and one can clearly see why someone might say that given their many uses. Perhaps now a bandana won't just be for the movie cowboys, pirates, and Bruce Springsteen's back pocket...but for you too!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Miner's Lettuce Smoothies!!...


Yesterday I went for a walk with our preschool and the children and I harvested two plastic grocery bag's full of Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). While as I type this...much of the country is covered in snow...in my neck of the woods in California we have thriving greens ready to be enjoyed by those that know of their worth (my heart goes out to you who are stuck in a winter wonderland!!). Using scissors and our hands we snipped handfuls at a time. Care was taken to not pull them out by the root so that they will regrow. Our harvest was mixed with grass...hairy vetch (Vicia villosa)...and some oak leaves...so care had to be taken to ensure that we weren't eating anything else.

After our sorting...I put maybe 3/4 of a cup of cranberry/raspberry juice into the blender...filled it to the brim with Miner's Lettuce...and added a couple of handfuls of frozen pitted plums. Blended...then added more Miner's Lettuce again. There really is no exact recipe...if you want it sweeter...add more frozen fruit...it's all up to you!

Here is some great info about Miner's Lettuce. The nutritional value...how to identify the plant...and harvesting ideas. This is actually the guy I got the idea to do the smoothie from!

My daughter did a video of a portion of our adventure. You are walking into my home to see a slice of our lives!!! Oh...and pay no attention to my anti-green vegetable son!!
video

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spring Food Crisis...


Perhaps you read like I did all of the grim reports in 2009...of crop failure...farm closures...and the general plight of the farmer that took place across the United States. Putting together those puzzle pieces...coupled with our other woes in this nation has led many preparedness minded people to feel perhaps more than a little concerned about how things will shake out in 2010.

This article gives a sobering forecast that the "other shoe will drop" in a couple of months! While some may be quick to dismiss this as sensationalism...I don't see why it couldn't happen as predicted. Such news may be good ammunition to help you to convince your spouse that it is time to stock up on those needed supplies!