Autumn So Far…

I really intended on this being some sort of DIY and outdoor adventure blog.  Turns out, when you’re living a rich life, it’s hard to find time to blog.  And I’m okay with that.  Hope all is well with you.  I’m pretty active on instagram.  You can look for me at the_sharpened_axe.

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Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.

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C’mon. I’m a Fungi. Fun Guy. Whatever.

I’ve covered nearly all of our new 30 acres on foot and with a gun. In my travels, I’ve seen lots of mushrooms and fungi.  One of the major reasons we moved here is because we bleed money on food every month.  We’ve got four children and two of us.  I’ve got multiple food allergies and intolerances.  That’s why I’m skinny.  We spend about $750 – $1000 a month on food alone.  Along with what we intend to grow, I’m interested in getting to know about fungi.  And because I’m a dad, I have to make a ridiculous pun about fungi and being a fun guy.  It’s right there in the title.

The forested part of our land is overgrown, falling down and about twenty years overdue for a cutting.  We’ve got a lot of small birches that have been wind damaged or given way to the poor management practices of the previous owners.  One thing I’ve noticed a lot of are these little guys.

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There’s a bazillion of them.  I decided to do some research.  They are called birch polypores.

From Wikipedia:

“Piptoporus betulinus, commonly known as the birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop, is one of the most common polyporous bracket fungi and, as the name suggests, grows almost exclusively on birch trees. The brackets burst out from the bark of the tree, and these fruiting bodies can last for more than a year. Technically, it is an edible mushroom, with a strong, pleasant “mushroomy” odor but a bitter taste. The velvety cut surface of the fruiting body was traditionally used as a strop for finishing the finest of edges on razors. It is also said to have medicinal properties.”

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From medicalmushrooms.net:

“One of its most important health benefits is boosting the immune system. This is particularly important because a body with a strong immune system does not suffer ill health easily. The fungus also boasts antiseptic properties. It prevents infections when used as bandage. In fact, some testimonies by people who have used it are interesting and fascinating. Users have said that not only does the mushroom heal the wound, but that it also leaves no scar even when the wound was deep.

The Birch Bracket Mushroom is anti-inflammatory. This means that it is capable of reducing or entirely numbing pain without touching on the Central Nervous System. Such natural products are in great demand because many ailments cause inflammation at some stage, and often synthetic medications trigger unwanted side effects. In other instances, medications themselves cause inflammation and products from this mushroom can be taken alongside such medications to neutralize inflammation. 

Other reports (Keller et al, 2002) mentioned Piptamine as an antibiotic in Piptoporus Betulinus. In the studies, the extracts successfully wiped out the bacterium Escherichia coli. It also killed other harmful bacteria mainly Bacillussubtilis and Biomphalariaglabrata which was not spared either. This confirms that this mushroom is extremely important in the field of medicine.

Research done earlier on had confirmed the presence of nucleic acid in the mushroom that was able to attack and incapacitate the virus encephalitis (Kandefer-Szerszen et al, 1979). The mushroom therefore can claim to have anti-viral properties.

The mushroom, Piptoporus Betulinus, is hailed as being able to fight tumours. Research done based on white mice proved that the Polysaccharides in the mushroom are were to curb the advancement of Ehrlich solid cancers by 90%. They were also able to restrict the advancement of Sarcoma 180 by the same percentage. (Ohtsukaet al, 1973).”

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Well, crap.  I guess I have to try some, right?

Another interesting fact, and pardon me for going geek, is the fact that Otzi the Iceman carried birch polypores on him.  If you don’t know who Otzi was, read up on him.  There are lots of articles and documentaries.  I’ve been studying that case for a long time and it is completely enthralling.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

 

The Wall of Axes

We bought a farm on 30 acres and moved in a two weeks ago.  Half of it is open fields and brush and the other half is well forested and has been mismanaged for a long period of time.  When unpacking, I decided to take inventory of what I have and don’t have to help me through the situation.

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Lots of axes and a few handsaws.  Don’t worry; there’s a 59cc chainsaw as well, which isn’t pictured.  I do need to pick up a peavey.  Somewhere in the move, I lost mine.  Not sure how you misplace a peavey, but if anyone can do it, it’s me.

I took my first hike to the back of the property and into the woods.  I brought the boys along, just so we could take stock of what resources we have back there and so that they could get a sense of what is now theirs.  I figure we’ll clear brush and branches this fall and get in there to cut firewood this winter.  I’m going to try to twitch the wood out with a small snowmobile.  Our farm is currently being farmed organically by a neighbor.  Here’s what he’s doing with the cabbage.  You should see the tomatoes and peppers!

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We hiked into the woods.  Lots of conifers and most of the hardwood is small and young.  We saw a lot of situations like the picture below.  I was actually really excited to see so much blown-over timber because we’re going to need dry firewood and I don’t want to buy any this year.

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Below, you can see newer growth coming up under older trees.  Some of the older trees need to be thinned to allow the smaller ones to come up through.  I’d say some of the smaller ones need to be thinned as well.

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I saw a lot of duff disturbances like the one pictured below.  I’m attributing them to skunks.  I think they’re nosing around, looking for grubs or other things to eat.  I suppose a bear might do it as well, but I didn’t see any sign or scat.

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Most of the boundaries are defined by rock walls.  This area is still farmed heavily and was back when the house was built in 1900.  I love the rock walls.  There’s a lot of work and character in them.  Think about all of that sweat.

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Many piles of deer scat.  I’d like to think they are from multiple deer, but my feeling is more that it’s one deer that’s heavily haunting the area.  I plan to get a game camera at some point to find out if we’re dealing with a buck or a doe.  Doe hunting in Maine is on a lottery system.  I missed the resident deadline by about a week.

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No farm would be complete without it’s own swamp, right?

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Not sure what the bone is from.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was from a fawn deer.

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Not a bad hike.  Stay tuned.  We’ve got a lot to deal with, including wormy apples, a collapsing roof on a shed, bush hogging and more.

 

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike Oscar Hotel

The Ghost in the Gun

Creepy title, right?  Don’t worry, we’re not going to get paranormal at all.  I’m just going to make a small observation.

When dad died last year, I inherited a few of his rifles and all of his pistols.  Among them was a Savage Mark II bolt action .22.  It was a nice little rifle with a scope, but I’ve got more than a few .22 rifles and didn’t need another.  What I needed was a smaller .22 for the kids.  I talked to my nephew and swapped him his Davey Crickett for the Savage.  He got the better end of the deal, but I wanted him to have it.

We finally got the opportunity to shoot it a few weekends ago.  He hadn’t shot in a long time, so we went through basic safety, then I showed him how to shoot the gun.  For a guy who had never used a scope, he did okay.

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Before I let him shoot, I took a crack at it.  I don’t have pictures, but I was hitting low and to the left.  My heart sank a little.  I inherited my mom’s Remington Model 788 in .243 about fifteen years ago.  My dad was the one who lined it in all those years back.  It always shoots low and to the left and I’ve always just compensated for it instead of fixing it.  I asked him about it when I got the gun and he said that the weight and stance of one shooter to the next would make a gun hit in slightly different spots for different people.  Every gun I’ve ever shot that he lined in was low and to the left.  The legacy endures, even where you aren’t expecting it to.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

 

 

 

 

 

Feet Per Second

I’ve got yard rabbits.  Like, rabbits that I let loose in 2014, expecting they’d be eaten by the fox during the night.  They’ve been here ever since.  Many rabbit folk say that a domestic rabbit can’t live on forage alone.  They’re wrong.  The two girls in my yard have done just fine.  In fact, they’re fat with hardly any help from me.

I caught one last year in a live trap and bred her to a buck.  Just to see if it worked.  It did.  A month later, I saw her pull fur.  Four weeks after that, I saw pea-sized bunny babies skittering out from under my shed.  There were seven in all.  All but one were killed by predators.  The last one we figured was a buck, due to the way he was built.  We called him Thunder.

Thunder was about a year old.  Rabbits can breed at 4 months (that’s pushing it a bit), but we’d seen no action between he and the girls until recently.  When he did mount them, they kicked him off.

Apparently, he closed the deal with one of the does, though.  I caught her pulling fur and stashing it under the deck the other day. Being that we’re selling the house, that isn’t ideal.

I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up some .22 shorts.  I usually buy CCI shorts and look for something in the neighborhood of 710 fps. I know those rounds are quiet and I can do basic jobs without being heard around the house.  They were out of CCIs.  All they had were these.

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None of the boxes listed feet per second.  Based on grains, I thought I’d be be okay with the 20 grain rounds, but the sales guy pushed me to buy the subsonics.  I grabbed the Super Extra Shorts figuring they’d be pretty close to the 20 grains and pack a little more punch at 29 grains.

When I got home, Thunder was out in the yard.  I got the kids’ bolt action Davey Crickett .22 and nailed him in the head with a 20 grain.  It was over long before he knew what was happening.  I looked him over.  He was very healthy.  He had never spent a day in a cage and I’d fed him vegetable scraps at most.  He was a self-made bunny.  He was as big as my cage raised rabbits, if not larger.

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Afterwards, I decided to try the Super Extra Shorts, thinking they would be similar to the 20 grains.  Man, was I wrong.  I stood in the dining room and fired out the back door and the gun made quite a *crack*.  I laughed and slid the door shut quickly and my wife scolded me for a moment.  I’m certainly glad I didn’t try the subsonics.  The .20 grains will do for now.  Though at $5.00 a box, they’re a little cost prohibitive.

I didn’t worry about the cops showing up.  I learned that lesson through my dad.  He came to visit a few years back and was working on my black powder rifle on the back deck.  He got something stuck somewhere and ended up firing off a shot in the back yard with no lead.  It was pretty loud.  I freaked out, but the old man just stood out there, still working on the gun.  Nobody came.  Mind you, my neighbors are probably 150 feet away.  I asked what he was going to do when the cops came and he said he would tell them exactly what happened and ask them if they wanted to fire off a shot.  By that age, he was at the point where he didn’t give a crap.  Now I understand why.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Lessons from the Mall

I hit the mall about once or twice yearly, for whatever terrible reason.  Today, we ended up at a mall and had to stay there for a couple of hours.  As painful as that can be, we made the best of it and saw a few things of note.

First up, axes!  There’s an LL Bean store at the local mall and, being from Maine originally, I had to stop in and check out their overpriced awesomeness.  I milled around for a bit and found myself in front of the rack with hatchets and camp axes.  I saw Gransfors Bruks, Wetterlings, and I was more than a little surprised to see Council Tool represented on the rack.  Council Tool, as far as I know, is the last manufacturer of American made axes.  They are based out of North Carolina.

It’s a decent hatchet with the LL Bean logo embossed on it.  Three or four years ago, Councils were selling between $40 and $60 bucks.  Apparently, they caught on to the fact that axes have a cult following and there are those out there that believe that the more you pay for an axe, the better it is.  Viva la capitalism.

After that, we headed for the doll shop.

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Oh.my.word.

So, I wasn’t aware of this, but there’s a very popular doll line that has stores dedicated to it.  If you can believe it, this store has a hair salon for dolls.  And people bring their dolls in to have their hair done.  And it’s not considered theft, because it’s consensual.

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I decided to use the bathroom while I was there.  It was the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever been in.  Apparently because no men have ever entered.

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My thoughts went to the next economic crisis.  I know, I know, doomsday crier. Ruining everything that’s fun!  But how do you compete for a job to feed your family when you’ve got “doll hair stylist” on your resume?  I felt bad for those people.  Maybe we’re all in the same boat with a hole in it, but I can’t help but think that those with a more practical skill set are going to be much better off in the next economic crash.

Lessons were to be had, as well.  Eldest boy was miserable in the doll store.

“I’ll never forgive any of you for bringing me to this horrible store,” he said.

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This was the prominently displayed face.  None of the people that worked there seemed surprised by it.

I explained to him that one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in life is to show interest in things that the people that I love are interested in, even if I think those things are not worth spending time on.  I’ve watched men bring women to boat and sporting shows and refuse to go to quilting shows to reciprocate.  Often times, relationships like that end in divorce.  I made him stay as long as his sister wanted to and even pointed out when I thought a display was neat.

I won’t be spending any more time at the mall this year, if I can help it, but it sure was a lesson-filled day.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.

 

 

Selling the Canoe, Part 2 (History and Aggrivation)

I worked at an outdoor adventure camp in New Brunswick, Canada in the 1990s.  Part of our services included a canoe ride down the Tobique and Nipisiguit Rivers once a week.  It was at that point in time that I fell in love with the Old Town Discovery 169.

16′, 9″ is a very manageable length for two people, though when I was working in New Brunswick, I often found myself paddling alone.  Often times, the boss would over order from the canoe rental place and we wouldn’t figure it out until the drop off guy was already on the road.  Sometimes, kids would triple up in canoes instead of double up, which would leave me alone as well.  After a few close calls with sweepers and rapids, I figured out the best operating procedure for me and began to excel at handling the canoe solo.  I like to stand up in a canoe, which is frowned on by most canoe people, but encouraged by polers, which I haven’t yet tried.

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I bought my Discovery about six years ago.  I hadn’t been in a canoe in years and I was desperate to show my children the fun that could be had on the water.  After some looking, we drove to Fort Collins and loaded it on our Volkswagen van.  Unfortunately, we quickly realized that many rivers on the front range are downright dangerous for canoes and especially so with children on board.  We ended up using it a few times on a lake every year.  I hate canoeing lakes.  Did I mention that?  I’m a river rat.

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After figuring out that we’re (probably) going to experience a life changing event soon, I decided (against my better judgement) to put the canoe up for sale.  And like any good man who doesn’t actually want to sell his toys, I priced it much higher than it’s actually worth.  Just because.  Because it’s my friggin’ canoe and I wish I could keep it.  There’s only been one person interested.  And he’s a fruit loop.  There are three players here; his response, my response and the (IMM) response, which is what I was thinking (I)n (M)y (M)ind before I responded.  I’m really a nice guy, but I’ve been suffering from a head cold, which really throws my patience back to what it was when I was in my 20s. Really, I’m not this guy anymore.  But sometimes he busts through.  Here is the email thread:

Hi!

I am interested in the canoe.  Do the seats have back-rests?  When can I view the canoe?

Regards,

Fruit Loop
(Name changed, of course)
In my mind (IMM), I’m thinking what kind of Sally are you that you need backrests?  It’s a canoe!
My response:
It does not have backrests.  I’m around today of you want to look at it.  Here are some pictures.  It’s dusty from the snow.  It cleans up well.  I’ve also included a picture of the third snap in seat, which is nice.  I’ve got a few paddles I’ll throw in as well on a full price offer.
 His response:
I just listened to your message.  Do you have photographs of each side of the hull?  What kind of shape is it in?
(IMM) Are you hard of reading?
My Response:
I’ll get pictures in a bit.  It’s just got normal wear and tear from being used.  No cracks, holes, etc.  It’s really in great shape, but well used.
His Response:
Okay.  What are you offering for oars?  I’m not sure, but it seems there are two sets of oars and the buyer gets to choose one set.  Is this correct?
(IMM)  You know, Captain Obvious, you actually use oars in a boat and paddles in a canoe.  I’d like to tell you this, but I’m afraid it will make our conversation longer, which I’m desperately trying to avoid.
My Response:

(I sent more pictures) I took more pictures of the body and the bottom.  Mind you, it’s dirty.  There are discolorations on the floor from kneelers or bladders – not sure which, but it’s a cosmetic issue.  

For paddles, we have two Carlisles, one unmarked and what looks to be a handmade wooden paddle, which was what I used.
His Response:

I’ve received and reviewed your photos and I’m trying to come to a decision.  There is some damage to the one end of the hull and would need to be repaired.  The gunwales look chewed up, possibly from an animal.  

The scratches on the bottom of the hull are normal, as well as the discoloration and pitting on the inside when stored outside.   The discoloration from bladders is unusual.  It almost looks like resin.
I’m really excited about this canoe, and now I’m chewing the fat.
(IMM)  Thanks for the insult.  And seriously, Watson?  You think a rodent chewed on my canoe?  That’s called use where I’m from and it happens after you take your canoe out more than once and don’t insist on fart-buffing it to a shine every time you get back off the water.  Furthermore, are you some sort of Nigerian scammer?  Did you really write what I just read?  Do you even know what chewing the fat means?  And the hull has no damage to be repaired.  You’re obviously proof of why weed shouldn’t be legal in Colorado.
I didn’t respond.  At this point, all I could have written is above.
His Response:

I want to be forthcoming with you and not go radio-silent.  I will pass on the canoe.  For the money, it is a little beat up for my taste.  My wife says if I am this much on the fence about it now, I will only complain about it years down the road.  

Thanks anyway,
Fruit Loop
(IMM) What is going on in this world when a guy like you can find a wife?  Tell me you didn’t meet online and exchange emails.  If you did, you need to run.  Because she’s obviously that desperate and she’s probably going to kill you in your sleep.  That, or your parents are actually paying an aide to make sure you don’t win a Darwin Award and she’s pretending to be your wife because it’s not as cruel.  And I’m glad we never get to meet.
And that, folks, is why I love craigslist.
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

 

 

 

 

Selling the Canoe, Part 1 (Snuffy’s Tripper)

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Photo by Shelly Philbrick Hewitt

I’d like to open this post with some foul language, but I don’t swear, so that’s not going to work.  And it was Sunday when I wrote this, so I guess I’ll keep it to harsh adjectives and whatnot.  Maybe a few &^%$#$% symbols.

We have an impending situation that will probably require me to sell my Old Town Discovery 169 canoe.  While I’m happy about the situation, I’m not remotely happy about selling my canoe.  I intended this article to be a rant about selling my canoe, but the following memory preempted it.  I guess we’ll do part one and two, since I like to stick to 500-600 words.  This post will top 800, but it’s cheaper than therapy, I guess.  And it’s a testament to the brand.

In 1988, my dad bought an Old Town XL Tripper.  For those of you not in the know, it is the Titanic of Old Town’s canoe line.  At a 20′ in length, the company boasted (I’m going on memory) that it would haul over 1,500 lbs.  Dad used to put the boat on Portage Lake and challenge a group of us kids (ten year olds) to roll it.  It could be done, but I assure you that the ol’ Tripper was steady in the water.  It usually took four or five of us hanging off the side and rocking for all we were worth to get her to go over.   Even then, she didn’t sink to the bottom.

In addition, dad put a homemade motor mount on the back and hooked up a Mercury 5hp motor to it.  If you’re thinking it must have looked weird and been a little awkward, you’re right.  Dad would have to put at least 60 lbs. of weight in the front of the canoe to hold bow down low enough so he could see over it and not flip.  Often times, I was volunteered (by him) to sit in the front of the boat while he zoomed to his favorite fishing spot on the Aroostook River after work.  With 5 horses, that old boat would fly upstream.

I can only remember being scared once in the Tripper.  We were on Caucomgomoc Lake in 1988.  Google it.  I’ve been to remote places, but that lake is probably the most remote place I’ve ever been.  He and I took the canoe to the dam and I had our brand new RCA camcorder in the bow with me and had been recording fish trying to jump the dam. We were working our way back to camp when a storm came in.  It was unexpected and came in quickly. The swells on the lake were soon over a foot high, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re in a canoe, it’s a tsunami.  Dad pointed the nose into the wind and waves and yelled for me to hang on tightly.  I asked him about the camcorder and he yelled something to the effect of, “F@$% it, I’ll buy another one!”

The front end of the boat slapped back onto the tossing lake after every wave.  Water was splashing over the gunwales and I knew that no matter what, I had to keep my keester in the center of the boat.  Dad wasn’t much for meaningful conversation, but I heard him clear his throat and start yelling to me.

“We go over, you swim for shore, boy.  When you hit the shore, stay on the shore and head that right on the beach!” he hollered.

“What about the camcorder,” I asked again?

“I told you I don’t give a f^*# about that!  Let ‘er sink if we dump!”

“What about you,” I asked?

I knew he wasn’t wearing a life jacket and he couldn’t swim.  Stupid, but normal for him more than I care to admit.

“I’ll go to the bottom and crawl to shore,” I heard him say in a lower voice.

He referred to that move as the “Australian Crawl”.  I have no idea where the term came from, but a few of the men in my family used that term to describe them going over in a boat, sinking to the bottom, and walking back to shore.  Even at ten, I knew the real reality of the situation.

If you’re wondering, we made it to a small cove and waited out the storm on shore.  The memory is still very vivid with me nearly 30 years later.

Dad died last August and my brother inherited the canoe.  That canoe speaks to the durability of Old Town canoes.  My dad used his equipment hard.  When I say hard, I mean it.  I often teased him about having the “Reverse Midas Touch”- everything he touched turned to crap.  When I got to the family farm after he died, the Tripper was sitting alone in the tall grass, full of water, scraped to skin on the bottom, with the thwarts nearly rotted out.  And I thought to myself…..what a canoe.  If she’ll hold water in, she’ll hold water out.  After all those years of abuse.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.

 

 

 

 

Properly Defining the Anatomy of an Axe

All Terms Roughly Borrowed  from The Ax Book, by D. Cook

Axes.  If you’re going to use one, you should know what you’re talking about.  For me, it all started with a hatchet I got at Big Lots and has slowly exploded from there.   What I didn’t know is that there are words to properly define different parts of the axe.  You probably know them all.  I didn’t, so I’m sharing what I learned in The Ax Book.

Axe Head.  If you have trouble remembering this one, you should not be at this blog.

 

The “Bit“, otherwise defined as the cutting edge.
 Upper Corner or “Toe” of the Bit.

 

Lower Corner, or “Heel” of the Bit.

 

The Eye.

 

The Poll (or back of the axe), according to D. Cook, “a solid mass of metal that aids balance and control of the axe.  He also adds, “The poll should not be used as a hammer.”:

Axes are very simple tools, but you must always remember that they changed the world and society.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.