Husqvarna Carpenter’s Axe for Trapline and Camp, Review

Ax Collage(2)

We had been looking for a good axe to use around camp and on the trapline. We wanted something that was of good quality but not super expensive. Something that had a short hardwood handle that would be easy to carry on the belt, in the pack basket or backpack, and was light enough to carry long distances, yet heavy enough to get the job done. We wanted an axe with knife’s edge, made of quality steel, that could be used for bushcrafting projects around the camp as well as the basic tasks that need to be done on a trapline. To be honest, that’s a lot to ask for.

While searching on-line I stumbled upon the Husqvarna Carpenter’s Axe. Right away it caught my eye because it is styled in the tradition of the old “Hudson Bay Axe”. The Carpenter’s Axe might be designed and marketed primary for woodworking, but it meets all the specifications for a north country trapping and camp axe. The hickory handle is 17.5″ long, just the right size for carrying on your belt or carrying in the pack basket. The overall weight is 2.2 lbs and that suits me to a tee. The Swedish steel head is hand forged and crafted in such a way that you can get your hand extremely close for maximum control for the finer bushcraft work. This axe has an excellent, straight, knife’s edge that sharpens easily and is very well suited for whittling and carving. Even so, it chops down small trees efficiently, can drive trap stacks, and do any job that comes up on the trail. This axe is well balanced and simply a pleasure to use.

This little tool far exceeded my expectations and I would never expect an axe of this quality to sell for under $60, but this one does. Are there better axes out there? You bet there are, but they also carry a hefty price tag. The bottom line is that this tool is an incredible value and really just about perfect for camp and trail.

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The Spindle. A Simple, Beautiful, Agrarian Tool

thespindle

One of the most important tools of the historic agrarian family was, and continues to be, the spindle. It’s beauty is only surpassed by it’s usefulness. For centuries, this simple and classic tool has spun fiber for the domestic economy. The spindle when properly used can easily turn wool, hemp, flax and cotton fiber into yarns that can be used to make everything from socks to sweaters. Once a common tool found on every homestead, the hand spindle is making a comeback. More and more people are finding it an affordable and easy way to learn the art of spinning, without buying an expensive spinning wheel. In our household, even though we have a wheel, Leah still spins with her many hand spindles because they are lightweight, portable and fun to use.

There are two basic kinds of hand spindles, the drop spindle and the supported spindle.

Drop Spindles…

Drop spindles are a weighted spindle. The weighted portion of the spindle is called a “whorl” and drop spindles are classified by the position of the whorl. There are top whorl, bottom whorl and mid whorl spindles. We have several top whorl and bottom whorl spindles that are used in our home. (You can click on the images below to enlarge.)

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Above is an example of a Top Whorl Spindle. These spindles have the whorl located close to the top of the shaft, which causes the spindle to spin very fast. A hook at the top of the shaft secures the developing yarn. The spun yarn is wound around the shaft under the whorl in a conical shape called a cop. Top Whorl spindles are very common and popular among hand spinners and are easy to use. (The spindle pictured has a whorl made from Cocobolo and a Wenge shaft)

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This is an example of a Bottom Whorl Spindle. These spindles have the whorl located at the bottom of the shaft and spin slower but longer and more consistently. This particular spindle is a Turkish Spindle that we had custom made out of spalted tamarind and east indian rosewood. The Turkish spindle is unique in that the whorl is not a solid round piece of wood. The whorl of these spindles are two wooden arms that the finished yarn is wrapped on as you spin. To remove the yarn in one convenient “turtle”, you simply disassemble the spindle. The fact that Turkish spindles can be broken down and stored flat, makes them a great tool to use when traveling.

Supported Spindles

Supported spindles work with the tip on one’s thigh, on the ground, on a table, or in a small bowl while rotating. These spindles are excellent for the elderly and folks who have limited mobility, because with this type one does not need to stand for long periods of time while spinning. Supported spindles come in a variety of sizes. The Navajo spindle is very large at 30″ long. There are small, extremely fast, tahkli spindles for spinning cotton, And the tiny Orenburg spindle, which is only 20cm, for spinning gossamer lace yarns. The spindle pictured below is a Russian-style spindle that was crafted from bird’s eye maple.

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Helpful Resources

Here is a short You-Tube video on how to use a top whorl drop spindle

Here is a video on using a Turkish style spindle

Book Recommendations…

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Integrated Forest Gardening, a review

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After reading several very good books on basic permaculture theory, I have been looking for something that goes a little more in-depth into the design and science of plant guilds; something with some examples and practical ideas. The creative use of planting guilds is one of the things that makes permaculture so fascinating. It is also something that is complex and hard to find information on, at least it was hard for me to find useful information on, without spending hours combing through internet forums and google searches. All I wanted was some basic “nuts and bolts” information (in one place) without spending lots of money on a permaculture course. When I saw that this book had 15 plant guild examples within its pages, I got excited. With Chelsea Green’s reputation for quality permaculture books, I sent off for a copy. I wasn’t disappointed.

Integrated Forest Gardening is well laid out and full of information that I have not found in any other permaculture book. It is touted as “the first, and most comprehensive, book about plant guilds” and delivers on that promise. The book is 310 pages and includes chapters on plant guild structure, plant selection, trees, species integration and project management. The last chapter is 66 pages long and takes a fairly deep look 15 different plant guilds. For each guild there are diagrams and a detailed plant list that includes all pertinent information, such as ecological function and human uses. Guilds included are fruit and nut, pawpaw, four vines annual-perrenial, poisonous plants, asian pear polyculture, ginseng/sugar maple, boreal forest berry, salsa garden, dwarf cherry tree polyculture and ruddock guilds (cider, pawpaw floodplain, persimmon wood, wild rice pond and hedge wall).

I have been interested in permaculture for some time but have felt as though I was stuck in a rut. I had the basic theory, I had some rough idea of guild plantings, but I didn’t feel at all confident enough to try to implement any of it on our farm. This book has given me the tools and information I need to to actually try some of this stuff! Although I probably wouldn’t want to sit around the table discussing politics and religion with the authors, I am very glad that they got together and wrote this book. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a better understanding of how plant guilds work and wants to understand polycultures in more meaningful way. Truly a treasure trove of useful information.

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The Campfire

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I’d cleared away a spot and threw together a quick ring of stones from the immediate vicinity. The sun was setting a little faster than I’d anticipated. It wasn’t the best place in the world to set up camp but I’d spent the night in worse spots. I reached into my coat pocket and retrieved a handful pine needles, a pine comb and some dried up lichens that I’d found on a rock that I sat on to rest earlier in the day. Within arms reach there was a nice length twig of of dry white pine. I snapped it into smaller pieces and arranged them into a tee-pee. I reached into my breast pocket to grab my matches and found a piece of birch bark. I left it there for another day and took hold of the match case. It’s one of those plastic tubes with a rubber O-ring under the lid and a striker on the bottom. I’ve had it 15 years or more. I struck a match and gently touched it to the pine needles. Immediately, a wisp of smoke began to rise and as the flame touched the pine comb it flared up catching the twigs within seconds. I started adding fuel, little by little. A piece of maple twig, a little bigger piece of bur oak and then some bigger stuff I had gathered and piled up. As I rolled out my Hudson Bay wool blanket, the flames danced and jumped at the harvest moon. Crimson and yellow, blue and gold. As the flames leaped to the heavens, my mind began to drift to days since passed.

Standing outside the trapping cabin in Copper River country of Alaska
Watching the northern lights and listening to wolves
Clearing away the breakfast dishes, so we could skin some mink while we finished our coffee
Dead Man’s Cabin
Picking low bush cranberries
And moose

Then I remember the Bad lands
South Dakota in fall of the year
Drinking coffee and watching bison graze the prairie grass

The Black Hills in Wyoming
Waking up with an inch of snow over my sleeping bag
And warming up by the fire

I’m snapped out of my trance
A Whip-poor Will calls
An owl hoots
A coyote yips
And then howls

A man can’t live in the past but it is nice to take the memories out every so often and remember. I take the pistol out of the holster and lay it within arms reach. I take a deep breath and look around the camp. Nothing soothes the soul like a night in the woods. Campfires are great therapy for a weary mind. Politicians, the economy, the price of milk and cattle, cars and traffic….these things seem a world away. The lust of the madmen for power and control, the effects of a sinful generation multiplied by ten; all seem so far away. Just the night birds and coyotes to sing me to sleep and a sneaking suspicion that I was born a 100 years to late.

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A Strong Agriculture, the Foundation of a Free and Independent Nation

Currier and Ives, American Farm Scenes

It is no coincidence that the decline of our liberty, wealth and independence coincides with the decline of agriculture in the American republic. Those who ponder the loss of their freedom, the inability to make ends meet and growing influence of internationalism and creeping socialism would be wise to notice the crumbling barns and empty fields around them.

From the very beginning, America’s founders realized that a strong and decentralized agriculture was essential for the maintenance of a free and independent republic. The reasons being many.

Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. they are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country & wedded to it’s liberty & interests by the most lasting bands. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Agriculture … is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness. ~ Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Washington

First, the freeholder and small farmer was understood to be the guardian liberty. Providing for his families most basic needs, the freeholder was not worried about “biting the hand that fed him”. He was his own man and guarded his precious rights of a free Englishmen, the birthright of the Magna Carta. His allegiance was first to God, second to his family and next to his country. The early American farmer had crossed an ocean and turned a wilderness into a garden, through blood, sweat and tears. He saw this, first and foremost, as a biblical mandate and the highest calling aside from being a minister of the Word. No one had stronger ties to the land, a stronger love for independence and civil liberty than the farmer. This of course is why collectivist tyrants throughout the ages, have first and foremost sought to destroy the independent farmer. Whether through regulation, taxation, economic warfare or simply murdering him…the freeholder must be eliminated before a free and independent people can be enslaved.

America’s founders understood that real wealth comes from the ground. The only real economic growth is that of agriculture. Without a strong agriculture, the national economy is built on lies, theft and fraud. Benjamin Franklin in his “Positions to be Examined” (April 4, 1769) made an very keen observation…

Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life, and virtuous Industry.

Today bankers create money (actually debt) out of thin air and then tell us it’s “wealth”. The moment that our people bought into this lie and ignored the real wealth creator, agriculture, was the moment that real wealth was sucked from their pockets and replaced with an IOU. When a cow eats grass and produces milk, this is economic growth. This is wealth creation. When a man plants a seed and it grows into a plant producing twenty seeds, this is wealth creation. When a banker creates money out of thin air, the value of your “wealth” decreases. You have been robbed and plundered. When market bubbles are inflated, the wealth is make believe. When the bubble pops, the loss is make believe. You either have an agrarian economy or one that is make believe.

Here is a fact that should be understood by all. Any nation that wishes to remain independent must be able to provide for itself, food and fiber. The strength of a nation, when the SHTF, comes down to the abilty of that nation to feed and cloth itself. In the age of “free trade” we are told that this is of no concern. We are told that agriculture is an old and dirty occupation. We are told that we should buy these things from other countries (even our enemies) and not worry about doing it ourselves. What could possibly go wrong??? Anyone that tells you these things, whether they claim to be “conservative” or “liberal” are your enemies. As America produces less from the earth, it becomes more dependent and beholden to outside interests. First our economies are gutted through “free trade” pacts and treaties. The economic bocs such as the proposed North American Union gradually become political blocs with the end goal of merging the regional blocs into a centralized global government. Countries that import their food and fiber can easily be forced into going along. Starvation is powerful persuader.

What shall we do?

While the political machine has been used to destroy agrarianism through regulations, property taxes and legal tender laws; it would be fool hearted to spend all of our efforts to correct our trajectory in the political realm. Now, this is not to say we should not seek reforms when possible, especially at the local and county level. But the great need at present is a return of the people to the land. Reversing the trend of urbanization is key to regaining our liberty. As Jefferson wisely predicted, the nation would only remain free and prosperous if it remained agricultural and would fall into corruption if the mass of the people populated cities. The first step toward an agrarian restoration primarily rests on individual families taking steps toward self-sufficiency and returning to the rural areas. These families lead by example and help others to transition back to the land. Communities are formed and localism begins to take root once more. We must build up a resilient agriculture that is family scaled and less dependent on inputs. One that feeds itself and fuels it’s own region’s economy with real wealth and growth. It is a long row to hoe, but it must be done.

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Some Pig

Gloucester_Old_Spot_painting

I always love to read accounts of extraordinary livestock. I was recently reading a great classic, The Illustrated Natural History of Selborne, which is a collection of letters that Gilbert White wrote to several naturalists about his home area in Hampshire England. The book is treasure trove of information about wildlife, soil types, plants, birds and livestock around Selborne. I happened upon this story of a grand old sow. I think you will enjoy it!

The natural term of a hog’s life is little known, and the reason is plain-because it is neither profitable nor convenient to keep that turbulent animal to the full extent of its time: however, my neighbour, a man of substance, who had no occasion to study every little advantage to a nicety, kept an half bred Bantam-sow, who was as thick as she was long, and whose belly swept on the ground till she advanced to her seventeenth year; at which period she shewed some tokens of age by the decay of her teeth and the decline of her fertility.

For about ten years this prolific mother produced two litters in the year of about ten at a time, and once above twenty at a litter; but, as there were near double the number of pigs to that of teats, many died. From long experience in the world this female was grown very sagacious and artful; – when she found occasion to converse with a boar she used to open all the intervening gates, and march, by herself, up to a distant farm where one was kept; and when her purpose was served would return by the same means. At the age of about fifteen her litters began to be reduced to four or five; and such a litter she exhibited when in her fattening-pen. She proved, when fat, good bacon, juicy, and tender; the rind, or sward, was remarkably thin. At a moderate computation she was allowed to have been the fruitful parent of three hundred pigs: a prodigious instance of fecundity in so large a quadrupled! She was killed in spring 1775.

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It’s Time To Think About Clipping Pastures

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The lush pastures of spring are now behind us and summer time brings new pasture management challenges. By this time of year, two things are happening in the paddocks that need to be addressed.

First, the grasses that the cows missed (for whatever reason) are now mature. These grasses are now headed out and have lost both nutrient content and palatablity. At this stage dairy cows will not eat it and every clump of mature grass means lost grazing potential. Some paddocks might only have half the useable grass that it had in the spring. The best option to correct this is to clip off the pasture and wait for a good rain. The mature grass will grow back and the cows will happily eat the new growth. The clipped grass will fertilize the paddock as well.

The other thing that is happening this time of year is that the weeds are blossoming and getting ready to go to seed. Now is the time to get them clipped off before they go to seed and multiply their presence. On our farm the prime weeds that need clipping are milkweed, golden rod, canada thistle and buttercup. None of these plants have any value as livestock feed and should be eliminated. Clipping your pastures before they go to seed, if done every year, will eventually get rid of these weeds.

So now is the time to check each paddock. Are there mature grasses past their prime? Are there weeds that are getting ready to go to seed? If so, you might want to consider clipping them off.

brush hogNFC

The brush hog we use to clip our pastures.

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How To Use a California Mastitis Test

CMT_NCF

The California Mastitis Test (CMT) is very useful tool in detecting mastitis in dairy cattle and goats. It is inexpensive and easy to use. I will walk you through the process of using a CMT test kit in this post.

The CMT test kit has 2 basic elements, the test paddle and the test solution. The test solution comes in a concentrated form and must be diluted with water. Follow the directions on the bottle and dilute the solution. The solution is then put in a dispensing bottle. The paddle has 4 compartments, one for a sample of each quarter.

First, strip and discard several squirts of milk from each quarter. The first squirts of milk are higher in somatic cell count and will throw off your results. You can now squirt milk from each quarter into the four separate compartments on the paddle. Tilt the paddle and drain off the excess so you have equal amounts of milk in each compartment. Now squirt the test solution into each sample, making sure that you add an amount of test solution equal to the amount of milk. You then swirl the samples in a circular motion. An infected quarter will be visibly thicker than the other quarters. See the video clip for an example…

Some good dairy deals on Amazon.com….

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Save $5 on Canning DVD

Just wanted to let everyone know about this $5 off coupon code for Kendra’s “At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond” DVD.. If you need some great instruction on home canning, this is a great deal. Use the code LEARN2CAN for the discount!

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Click here to purchase At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond.

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Wild Low Bush Blueberries, A Health Packed Foraging Opportunity

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Summer time in the north country means it’s time to start foraging for Vaccinium angustifolium, known by us common folks as wild low bush blueberries. Low bush blueberries are much smaller than their cultivated high bush cousins. They can grow to be 60 cm tall, although they are usually 35 cm tall or less. They like rocky, wooded, semi-open areas with acidic soils that are well drained. They are stimulated by fire and the Indians used to burn areas to stimulate blueberry growth and production. Our berries grow on the bare rock areas on the farm in amongst various mosses and lichens. The leaves are blue-green in the summer and purple in the fall and the blossoms are white.

wild blueberriesNCF

These blueberries are higher in antioxidants than the larger kinds that are cultivated. One reason is that the berries being smaller, give you more skin per pound and less pulp. The antioxidants are in the skin! In fact, wild blueberries give you twice as many berries per pound and that means a more nutrient dense food. Less pulp and juice also means they freeze better than the larger types. Wild blue berries also are high in the trace mineral Manganese.

You can find these plants growing wild in eastern and central Canada, the northeastern United States (as far south as West Virgina) and also in Minnesota and Manitoba. Keep your eyes open for these tasty, healthy, fun to pick fruits. Grab the children and head for the woods, they’re free for the picking!

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