Monday, 5 November 2012

Bushcrafting: Man Bag/Haversack

As much as the "European man bag" is getting mocked these days, it is still very trendy and not a new idea.  Haversacks have been around since man first started to travel. Old army surplus gas mask bags are much prized by young adults in Great Britain right now and of course, the bushcrafting crowd all over.   Hey, even Harrison Ford's character, "Indiana Jones", carries a British Mark VII gas mask bag as part of his adventure kit.

Surplus Finnish gas mask mask bags are easier to find, less expensive, and just a little larger in carrying capacity.  The other thing which makes these bags so popular is that they are so easy to personalize or accessorize.

I decided that it might be a nice project to fix one of these bags up for myself.  The haversack would make a nice addition to my canvas and leather Frost River backpack and the rustic style would make the two very complementary.  I could also use this bag on its own as a daypack for bushcrafting trips or, yes, even as a man bag.

 So I purchased one from a surplus store online because I could not find one locally, shopped around for some leather and brass parts, and ordered a shoulder pad for the strap from Maxpedition.  I had to have some straps removed and new loops sewn in their place.

 Finally, I attached a leather "Navigator Pouch", made by leather artisan and very talented knife maker, Cody of  Adventure Sworn.

 My coworkers are always very curious about my little crafting projects and they really liked this bag.  One asked if I could make them one in pink!  For now, I think I'll just take mine out and enjoy it regardless of the "man bag" stigma.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Vaccinate Debate

This is the season where people go and get their flu shots.  It always brings up contentious discussion over the efficacy of vaccinations..  Normally I don't have a big problem if someone decides that immunizing themselves is not for them as long as they have done their due diligence when deciding.  I wish they would reconsider but it's ultimately their decision.

What really irritates me is all the people who spread misinformation about what is in these vaccinations and how they work.  Lately I dropped two of the support groups for my vasculitis because it is filled with such people.  I have heard everything from the flu shot contains live viruses so you could become a "Typhoid Mary" type of carrier or that the flu shot contains tracking devices put there by the "government".  I have read from some posters in these support groups encouraging people not to take any vaccinations which is in direct contravention to the medical advice given by the Vasculitis Foundation of Canada, the Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center, and even my own well respected  rheumatologist.  The wrong information being spread by people, no matter how well intended, can have disastrous results on people who are already chronically ill, immunosuppressed, and gullible enough to believe it.

As a medical professional I am concerned when I see the number of people stricken with whooping cough(Pertussis) reaching epidemic levels.  This is all because misinformed parents refuse to get their kids vaccinated with the DPT shot.  Pertussis is otherwise highly contagious.   It is also alarming to see the resurgence of Polio, a disease that was thought to be almost completely wiped out because of a worldwide successful vaccination program.  Then there were all the highly publicized claims about the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) causing autism that were later proven to be fraudulent only last year.  The list goes on for the non-science based witch hunt on vaccines and people are getting sick as a result.

 Yes indeed vaccinations can have unpleasant side effects such as fever, chills, allergic reactions, or soreness in the spot where the shot was given.  In some cases the side-effects can be worse but the incidence is much lower than the possible bad effects of the original diseases.

On a personal level, I almost died from the Swine Flu (H1N1) in the Fall of 2009 because I didn't get vaccinated in time.  As a medical person who is exposed to sick people and as a person who is immunosuppressed, there was a rush to get my shot but I had already been exposed to the disease by the time I received it.  I ended up in the hospital as a patient in isolation and very sick.  I never miss getting my flu shot and as early as I possibly can now.

 Bottom line is I don't want to be sick nor do I want to make anyone else sick.  Getting a simple vaccination can prevent it.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Bushcrafting - an overnighter

I had a couple days off work so I decided to take my son out on a quick overnighter. He had our standard backpacking gear and I was using my bushcrafting setup.

I'm using a Frost River Summit Expedition and it was a little tight to fit all my overnight gear but doable.  With my sleeping pad packed inside and against my back, it road quite comfortably but I did have occasional arm numbness/circulation cut off with the straps (I need to learn to switch my hiking stick to my other hand once in a while).

My shelter was a basic 5x7 siltarp and a bivy bag with some Tyvek as a groundsheet.  My son was using one of my regular tarptents.  I had problems with mice driving my crazy all night and he had none...hmmm, lesson learned here maybe.

Regulations in the area prohibited campfires so we had to make do with the flames from my candle lantern and White Box alcohol stove.  Although I have used popcan stoves and they are lighter, I really like the robust build of the White Box and it really puts out some BTU's too!

I always wanted to try carving my own wooden spoon so we got down to business.  It was harder than it looked I have only got it to the point where it has been roughed and ready for some knife work.  I have new respect for all you spoon carvers!  I have taken my project home and will hopefully remember to pack it on my next trip so I can finish it.  Hopefully it will not turn into a much reputed "chicken stick" but it is always a possibility.

I'm looking forward to getting some campfire action on my next trip and continuing work on my spoon.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Richmond Night Market

Last night my family and I headed to the Richmond Night Market. We actually have two of them in Richmond, one which is the biggest in North America.  It usually runs  all summer every second Friday evening from from 7pm to 12am  Although some of my family has been to one before, this was my first time.

It poured with rain but we didn't let it stop us.  If we let the weather interfere with our plans, we'd never get to see anything, especially this wet year!  There was a really good band playing Celtic music and I could have listened to them all night.

There was a huge selection of street food where you could buy anything from grilled octopus on a stick to gourmet doughnuts.  I stopped by a Bubble Tea booth to wave at a friend who was working there.

There were rows and rows of vendors selling cheap imported goods, most from China.  Most of them are happy to barter for the prices.  I decided to be a cliche and a purchased a new cover for my iPhone.  There was also art on exhibit and some things I just can't explain.

Hopefully, I plan to return later this summer when it is a little warmer and drier.  If you get a chance to visit the Vancouver area on a Friday, I highly recommend visiting one of our night markets.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Erin's High School Graduation

Last week my daughter Erin graduated from high school.  After much nagging and gnashing of teeth from my wife, I finally have the pictures processed and online for the rest of my family to see.  Erin worked very hard this year and will be entering the nursing program at the University of Northern British Columbia this Fall.  We are very proud of her and we will miss her.

It seems like only yesterday I was enrolled in the Medical Laboratory Technology program, where I met my beautiful young wife.  It was and still is an exciting adventure.  I am satisfied that I have helped raise such a mature and responsible young lady.  No amount of money could make me feel richer than I am by her achievements.

Here is a little video of Erin's Grad.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Bushcrafting: Bush Jacket Project

I really like the look of the Fjallraven Greenland jacket but I just can't afford one, champagne taste on a beer budget.  I prefer natural to synthetic fabrics when I'm out and there is a possibility of having a fire ember landing on me.  I also prefer earth tones when it comes to a bush jacket and I wanted something large enough to layer over my wool Swanndri shirt.  Another requirement that I wanted was a reasonable amount of weatherproofing.  It doesn't have to be completely water proof (my eVent rain shell wont be replaced)  but I'd like a fair amount of water and wind resistance.

So with a small amount of money, I started my search for the right jacket.  It had to be similar to the Fjallraven or an old military M65.  I found just what I was looking for in Old Navy, a $50 lined cotton military styled jacket with a hood.  It needed a lot of work to bring it up to the standards I was looking for.

First thing I did was replace all the cheap plastic buttons with antiqued brass ones.  Then I added a bunch  of cordlocks to the jacket's drawstrings.

To weatherproof it, I waxed it using Fjallraven's Greenland wax.  This is done by just rubbing it on the fabric and then ironing it to melt the wax in.  This was a tedious job and I did two separate layers.

Lastly, I sewed on a few patches.  I am thoroughly happy with the results and I feel that all the work invested in this jacket has made it worth more to me than any jacket I might have wanted to buy in the first place.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mother's Day

I decided to take my wife out for the day and do some local tourist stuff.  The weather was warm and our luck rewarded us with perfect parking spots wherever we went.  We started out on Granville Island where we toured lots of artsy shops, walked through the market, and had lunch.

After lunch we headed for North Vancouver's Capilano Suspension Bridge where we walked suspended high in the tree canopy, along the side of a cliff, and swinging from a bridge 200 feet high above the river.  It was definitely not a place for someone afraid of heights!

All that walking over precipitous drop-offs got us thirsty so we bought some frozen lemonade at their Trading Post.   It was refreshing and delicious..I highly recommend it!

In truth, everyday should be treated like mother's day and we should always let those special ladies in our lives know how much we love them.  On that note, it's time to go and call my Mom.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Sleepless in Seattle

My wife and I had a few days off so we decided to ditch our kids(they are quite capable of taking care of themselves now that they are in high school with one graduating this spring) and we headed down to Seattle for an overnighter.  My wife gambled for our hotel using and we ended up with a so, so place about a mile and a half from where we wanted to be.  The hotel would have been very convenient had I wanted to see a game given that it was right across the street from Safeco Field.

The weather was a mixed bag with very rainy periods as should be expected for anyone who lives in the pacific northwest or the Seattle area.  You never leave home without your rain gear and I was no exception.

As we were were just doing a little shopping and behaving like typical tourons, visiting Pike Place Market was a must.

Seattle isn't quite as bohemian as Portland.  Seattle has a more mature and sophisticated vibe about it, especially when it comes to dining out.  This morning we had a wonderful breakfast at Sweet Iron Waffles and I must say the barista, who made my latte, was an artist!

On the drive back home, we decided to take a detour along Chuckanut Drive because I have never been on it.  It was stunningly beautiful and well worth the extra time.  I would really like to spend more time exploring the trails along this road and perhaps trying a few oysters from bay we drove next to.

It was a nice surprise to be waved back over the border without any hassle after having purchased over twice our allowable limit.  I almost wished we had spent more(no way!).

Friday, 6 April 2012

Vancouver International Auto Show

Today, my wife and I took my son to the auto show.  He's crazy about cars and wants to be an auto mechanic.  This is the first time that we have all had the same day off to go to the Vancouver International Auto show.  We also wanted to check out a few compact cars as prospective second vehicles.  We will soon have three licensed drivers in our home and possibly need another vehicle.

The show was held at BC Place and I hadn't been in there since they put on the new looks great and I can't wait to go and see a Whitecaps game there!

There was the usual collection of fancy schmancy expensive models on display like this Lamborghini Aventado.

There were also a few concept cars in the show like this Cadillac Urban Luxury Hybrid below.

...and it wouldn't really be a car show without a few giveaways, swag, and sales gimmicks like this "Hank" the robot from FORD.  He reminded me of the evil robot that froze everything in the movie "Logan's Run".  I was a little creeped out and half expected him to start chasing people while cackling about preserving "plankton and fish and sea greens and protein from the sea"!

I spent quite a while trying out various compact cars for "fit" as I am a big guy.  Fit wasn't quite as important to the smaller members of my family.  The car which suited me the best was a KIA Rio although the Hyundai Accent wasn't half bad either.

It was a fun way to spend the day despite the crowds and the irony of taking public transit down to see the auto show was not lost on me.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bushcrafting Afternoon - In search of fomes fomentarius

Today I had a nice pleasant 4km hike with my family around Richmond Nature Park.  Since we have a lot of paper birch growing naturally in our local boggy areas, I thought it might be a great place to look for Chaga, or False Tinder/Horsehoof fungus(fomes fomentarius).

The trail was very wet in spots but it was good practice for my ocean beach trail hikes .

While I didn't find and Chaga, I did find some Horsehoof fungus right where I would expect to find it.

Now that you are curious as to what I want it for, there is a very soft layer between the hard outside skin and the spongy interior of the fungus which makes excellent tinder.  It is called "amadou".  Amadou can also be used to carry an ember for a long time, it makes an excellent strop for knife sharpening, and first nations people used to fashion clothing out of it.  I think I need a little practice harvesting it as the best mine will ever be for is as tinder.

False Tinder/Horsehoof Fungus (fomes fomentarius) 
Now I just need to dry it out a little and put it in my fire/tinder box.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Bushcrafting, my new old interest

     I have recently  rediscovered a passion for bushcrafting.  It is an activity which brings back fond memories from my childhood of carrying my Dad's old canvas rucksack on hunting trips with him or the fun I had as a boy scout.  Bushcrafting is essentially learning to coexist in the wilderness by using the skills and knowledge passed down to us by our ancestors, who used them out of necessity.  Bushcrafting is not about survival. It is about living in harmony with your natural surroundings.  Watching youtube videos and old TV programs featuring outdoor gurus like Ray Mears  
Picture from
 rekindled the desire for what I was missing in backpacking and hiking activities.   Don't get me wrong, I love backpacking and hiking but I felt more like a visitor lacking any real connection to the environment through which I was travelling.  I also found that quite a few of my hiking or backpacking adventures often began to focus more on the distance or elevation gain numbers rather than experience of the trip itself.  This would lead to unwanted stress which was the antithesis of why I was getting out in the first place.

    Some of my fellow hikers might see bushcrafting  as being exploitive because it is an activity that relies on using the resources one finds rather than just depending on what one carries, however,  I see it differently.  Both interests share the "Leave no trace" ethic and in bushcrafting one must be respectful not to overuse what one finds in an area and to do one's best to replace what is used.  In hiking/backpacking, the gear we carry in our kit may be harvested and produced in a manner that is just as harmful if not more so than what is used in bushcrafting.

Anyone who knows me fairly well, knows that I am gear obsessed.  There is gear specific to bushcrafting but it tends to be more related to tools for creating what you might need.

 I love making my own gear and always have enjoyed do it yourself (DIY) projects with my other interests.  At home, my bushcrafting might include, fashioning leather lanyards or assembing a fire/tinder kit (making char cloth out of old cotton T shirts) and in the woods it might include carving wooden tent pegs, making a cook fire, or catching a fish.

  Even my style of clothing has changed.  I now use clothing made from natural fabrics, such as wool and cotton, rather than synthetics for my bushcrafting trips.
 Synthetics are more suited to backpacking where one is concerned about weight and volume.  In my experience, clothing made from natural fibers is more resistant to errant sparks from campfires and is more durable for activities where one is crafting with bladed tools.

     In future blog entries, I'd like to share some trips and techniques that I have experienced.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Steveston Sunday

Just back from spending a nice day with my wife and daughter down at Steveston.  This is usually their mother daughter time but they graciously allowed me to tag along.  I wanted to see the Winter  Farmer's/Artisan market, which is held every second Sunday in the Gulf of Georgia Cannery.

Afterwards, we had a fish and chips lunch (It's mandatory if you are down in Steveston!), did a little shopping, and then hit the docks where we bought a couple pounds of shrimp off one of the fishing boats.  I also wanted to check out a wood sculpture on the boardwalk that I saw being carved on the OLN TV show , "Saw Dogs".