Please send me some locust borers…

Please send me some locust borers!!! When we bought our home in 2003 it had a pretty black locust tree in the back yard. A variety of the black locust called purple robe. Besides shade, it gave us a show of lovely purple flowers every spring. The relationship turned sour soon though. It kept sending out little sucker roots every spring that invaded some of our other planting areas. I cut them down, but the shoots have these damnable thorns that hurt like hell and they go through leather work gloves like a knife through butter. Getting rid of them every spring turned into a painful PITA so we decided to get rid of the tree (heretofore referred to as the Tree from Hell…)

The Tree From Hell

After 3 years, the tree is worse than it’s ever been. The sucker roots are worse than ever and more prolific. Last year almost 1/4 of my back yard was cover with these g*****n things. Id cut of the branches, get stung by the thorns, and spray them with Roundup. Didn’t matter. They kept coming back, and keep coming back.

This year I’m trying something new. Digging up the stumps and pulling the sucker roots out of the ground. It’s hard work, it sucks. I just want to enjoy my back yard. Why does this effing trash tree seem so hell-bent on making sure I can’t? The sad thing is, I’m not sure that even pulling the roots out will solve the problem unless I can get ALL of the root. Even a missed fragment can grow into a new “tree.” This thing isn’t a tree, it’s a weed of the worst kind. Maybe even a Hydra…

How to kill a locust tree?

So how to you kill a locust tree without killing the rest of the plants in my back yard? I don’t want to use chemicals. I found out that locust borers are “often fatal to locust trees. Where to get them though? Can’t find them online. Couldsomeone tell me where I can get some locust borers? PLEASE???

Husqvarna Carpenters Axe, first look…

I decided to try a Husqvarna Carpenters Axe because I want to learn some woodcrafting skills. I decided on the Husqvarna mainly because I can’t afford a Gransfors Bruk carpenter’s axe. In looking at pictures of both, I actually preferred the slightly curved bit on the Husqvarna to the straight bit on the GB. The Husqvarna is a Swedish made axe just like the GB, so for $60 I figured it was worth a try – especially since the GB is over $150. My first thought after looking at it is I’m not impressed. I’m not going to be swinging it so maybe some of the things will turn out to be not a big deal, but still…

This is a high quality axe handle???

The first thing I didn’t like when I picked up the axe for the first time is the handle. It’s only rough sanded, and a few spots are so rough it feels like you could get a sliver if you’re not careful. Grain orientation is poor. Grain runout is bad, and looks like about 50-50 sap wood and heart wood (will post pics soon).

The biggest problem with the handle, though, is the design. It’s too thick to choke up on the head, which is a pretty big deal for an axe used for carving and carpentry work. And it’s not just too thick – there’s a big spike that hits right on your palm when you choke up on this axe. It can be thinned a litlle bit, but not too much because the eye in the head is so big. It’s like they put the eye from a full size felling axe in a carving axe’s head.

The handle/head fit is poor, with lots of gaps between the head and handle on the bottom side. “Probably” won’t matter for light striking, but kind of bothersome.

On to the hand forged Swedish axe head…

As bad as the handle is, the head is even worse. When I first looked at this axe I thought it was just canted to one side in relation to the handle. No big deal, lots of axes are like that, even big name Swedish axes. Looking closely though, it’s not just an alignment problem. The head isn’t shaped right. The eye looks flared at the bottom and the poll is miss-shaped and canted to one side (pics coming soon).

I don’t like returning things. It’s a hassle, and I hate paying return shipping costs. But you have to do what you have to do sometimes. I went looking on YouTube for reviews on the Husqvarna Carpenters Axe. I figured if they all looked like mine I’d just keep it and eat the $60 loss. If it turned out mine was flawed, I’d try to get the seller to send a replacement with free shipping.

I found quite a few reviews on this axe. Most of them spoke glowingly of the Carpenters Axe, even though most of them were using it for chopping instead of carving or carpentry work. None of them mentioned the problems that my axe has so I was going to send it back. Then I found a different video on upgrading the Husqvarna Carpenters Axe. It wasn’t a review, instead it detailed the problems with this axe – the same ones my axe had – and what the guy did to fix them.

After watching the video, I decided to keep the axe. Maybe it will be a fun project.

Would I recommend the Husqvarna Carpenters Axe? Well…

If you expect a high quality axe that’s ready to use when you get it, then I would not recommend the Husqvarna Carpenters Axe. Save your money and buy something better. I know this is “just” a $60 axe, but even for $60 this axe comes with more problems than it should.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive axe that you can put some time in and have a nice axe for less than you’d pay for a Granfors Bruk, the Husqvarna might be worth checking out. After mine gets the tune up, I’ll report back on the results.

Best bushcraft backpack?

The other day I read a post on another blog listing “The 10 Best Bushcraft Backpacks for 2018.” There were some nice packs on the list (and they all had convenient links to buy them on Amazon) but none of them are what I consider to be the best bushcraft backpack. Day hiking? Sure. Backpacking? At least one good one. But a good backpack for buschcraft? I didn’t see one on the list.

What makes a good bushcraft backpack?

The things that make a good pack for anything are pretty basic. A good pack will do a good job of distributing the weight. It should give good ventilation for your pack. Obviously it needs enough room to haul water, food, and all your gear. To be good for bushcraft though, that’s not enough IMO. A good bushcraft backpack should also be rugged and easy to reconfigure as your load changes. So what’s wrong with the packs on the list?

Every one of them is an internal frame pack. That means you’re pretty much stuck with the out of the box configuration. There’s no frame to tie stuff to (or use stand-alone). One of the packs has MOLLE webbing for attaching accessories, but the rest have no easy way to attach stuff if you need to. Some of the packs on the list don’t have a decent paddied waist strap, so forget about transferring some of that weight to your hips. Most of the packs on the list seem light for their size, which probably means material was selected for weight over strength.

What makes a good bushcraft backpack?

It has to be rugged and flexible. If it’s going to fall apart, it’s not going to be a good pack. You should be able to configure it, not just pack all your stuff in it. IMO there are only a few packs that are decent for bushcrafting. A good backpack for a bushcrafter, especially “the best bushcraft backpack,” should be able to hold up to hard use and even abuse. It should be easy to modify. It would be nice if it was cheap. Is there such a thing? Yep.

And the Best Bushcraft Backpack is…

In my opinion, the best bushcraft backpack is the USGI ALICE pack. I don’t think you can find a more rugged pack for anywhere near the price of a surplus ALICE pack. You can get a brand new one for $130 – $150 and used are much cheaper. Right now you can get a used ALICE pack and frame with a Hellcat upgrade for less than $100, including shipping.

The ALICE pack can survive air drops while heavily loaded, so it probably can take anything you use it for. It has an external frame so it’s easy to strap things on that won’t fit inside. You can use the frame with just the shoulder straps and belt for packing things with sharp corners that would tear up an ordinary pack You can use the pack and shoulder straps without the frame if you have a light load. It has lots of attachment loops on the pack (not as many as a MOLLE pack though).

It’s not the most comfortable pack in the world, but it’s probably the most bomb-proof and flexible pack you’re going to find anywhere, at least at an affordable price. I can’t think of any pack that would be better for bushcrafting. In fact, I’ll go so far as to call the ALICE pack the best bushcraft backpack you can get. It might not be the best pack for camping, general backpacking, or day tripping. For a bushcraft pack though it’s the best, at least IMNSHO.

Peace out,

This is what I’m talking about…

In my truth about axes, I pointed out that some people use the wrong kind of axe for what they want to use it for, then complain that it didn’t work like they thought it should. Today I found lots of examples of exactly what I was talking about. I’m looking at reviews of the Husqvarna Carpenter’s Axe. Every single review I could find on this axe was talking about how good it was or not for bushcrafting. REALLY??? There must be SOME reason Husqvarna calls it a Carpenter’s Axe instead of a Bushcraft Axe, right? Especially since they sell a few axes that are way more suited to bushcraft than their Carpenter’s Axe. So WTF is it with all these axe reviewers treating it like it’s a bushcraft axe?

The Truth About Axes

I confess that until this year I never owned an axe. We don’t have a lot of trees where I live, and besides my dad left me a nice Stihl chainsaw when he passed away. Lately though I’ve been thinking I need to learn how to use an axe. I mean what kind of self respecting Backyardsman would stay clueless about axes? So I started reading up on axes – woodcraft blogs, product reviews, manufacturer web sites, anywhere I could find the truth about axes. What I found is there’s a lot of good info on axes, but it’s almost overwhelmed by all the BS. After a lot of reading and thinking about it, here is what I think…

My opinion on axes and axe reviews…

There are lots of axe snobs out there, and they come in all types. Some love cheap axes, and insist that expensive axes are over priced (and anyone who buys one is an elitist gear snob). Others love expensive axes and look down on cheap ones (and people who like them). Some people only like certain brands and claim that other axes are junk, or at least not nearly as good as the brand they like. One thing they all seem to have in common is a love for loudly proclaiming their opinions as The Truth About Axes.

I think in general you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t mean that all cheap axes are junk, and it doesn’t mean that high end axe makers don’t let a lemon out the door once in awhile. It took me a little while to figure out how to read about axes. A few bad reviews doesn’t mean an axe is bad, and lots of good reviews doesn’t necessarily mean an axe is the best axe on the planet. So how do you tell if an axe is good or not from reading axe blogs and reviews?

How can you tell how much weight to give a particular review? Look at what it says. A 5 Star review on Amazon doesn’t mean much to me if the person who wrote it just goes on about how “awesome” the axe looks. I’m more interested in how it performed. How well does it hold an edge? Is it a chopper or a splitter? If someone had problems with an axe, did the seller or manufacturer make it right? Were they even given the chance to make it right? How much experience does the reviewer seem to have? Do they come off as an axe snob, or do they sound like they’ve actually used the axe they’re reviewing? If you’re new to axes, learning how to read product reviews can save you lots of money and hassle.

The Truth About Axes

Axe truth No. 1: Some axes are better than others, but you can find plenty of good quality, inexpensive axes and hatchets. They might not hold an edge as well a boutique axe and they don’t have that “cool factor,” but they’ll be fine for learning with.

Axe truth No. 2: In general, expensive boutique axes use better steel, hold an edge better, have cleaner designs, etc. That doesn’t mean that every expensive axe is better than every cheap axe. Also, even the best axe maker can let a lemon slip out the door

Axe truth No. 3: You need to buy the right kind of axe. If you want to split wood, don’t get a chopper. If you want to carve with your axe, don’t get a splitter. A lot of complaints I’ve read in reviews seemed to be because the reviewer was using the wrong type of axe for what he was doing with it.

And the best axe for a newbie is…

A good quality, inexpensive axe. Think about it. If you’re new to axes, why would you spend a ton of money on an expensive boutique axe when you might not even know yet what kind of axe is best for you? Would you rather learn how to sharpen with a cheap axe, or risk ruining an expensive head? What about modifying an axe? Would you rather practice on a $40 axe or a $200 axe? Save your spending on that expensive premium axe for when you know what you want and need (unless you’re just looking for a fancy wall hanger).

Some inexpensive axes/hatches I like are the Estwing E24A Sportman’s Axe, Husqvarna 13″ Wood Hatchet, and the Marbles MR701SB Camp Axe, MR703SB Hunter’s Axe, and MR704 Outdoor Axe. All of these can be found online for $25 – $50. I also like the Boy’s and Hudson Bay axes in Council Tool’s standard line (the Velvicut line is nice too, but too expensive for a first axe IMO).

For more thoughts on going cheap for your first axe, check out this video. He goes into more detail on why your first axe should be a cheap one…

My first axe(s)

My first axe is an Estwing E24 Sportman’s axe. I picked it up at Home Depot for $34.97 plus tax. Shortly after, I drank the koolaid and ordered a Gransfors-Bruk Scandinavian Hand Forged Forest Axe. That one was $142 plus $8.95 shipping. Guess which one has been getting the most use?

Peace out,

KETO diet – just Man Up

There’s a blog I read on a pretty regular basis. The writer usually has good info but he tends to stuff his writing with lots of affiliate links. OK I guess, everyone needs to make money and after all I don’t have to click on them…

He seems to be on a new theme – the KETO diet. Nothing wrong with that either. I struggle with weight myself. I also researched the Keto diet and it does seem legit. So what’s the problem?

He makes it out as a big deal (and it is). He writes about how personal the struggle with weight is (and it is). Then, the inevitable product link. Booh… Really? Your idea of helping people is to post product links to crap that YOU sell???

The real deal about the Keto diet…

The real deal about the Keto diet is it’s simple and it works. The more real deal that almost no one promoting it tells you is that it’s SO simple you don’t need to hire a fucking expert or buy “proprietary” supplements to make it work. Can you read labels? Good. Then you don’t need to waste money to have people blow sunshine up your ass…

Keto diet in a nutshell

20 – 30 grams net carbs (total carb weight – fiber weight) per day max
1 – 1.5 grams protein per pound of your ideal body weight in kg
Remainder of calories come from healthy fats

Wow. Isn’t that easy? Here’s an example. I’m an “average” adult male, so I need about 2500 calories per day. I weigh 210 lbs, but my ideal weight is 175 – 180 (about 80 kg). Let’s do some simple math. 30 grams of carbs is a fixed max for the Keto diet. My ideal weight is 80 kg, so I need 80 – 120 grams of protein. I’ll go with 100 grams.

Carbs and protein each have 4 calories per gram. My carb/protein intake on the Keto diet is 130 grams, or 520 calories. If I need 2500 calories per day, that leaves 1980 calories I need to get from fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram, so that works out to 220 grams of fat.

Simple, right? If you can read labels and do basic math, there’s no need to hire a so-called expert. Are you with me so far?

What about the special supplements?

So-called “special supplements” IMHO are a special kind of stupid way to waste money. If you’re getting most of your carbs from green leafy vegetables, you’re getting all the micro nutrients you need.

You know, all that boring stuff like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, stuff like that. Eat healthy vegetables instead of popping expensive “proprietary blend” supplement pills? Who would have ever thought of that???

OK, rant over…

Bottom line on the Keto diet is that it does work. Bottom line on most people promoting the Keto diet is they’re trying to separate you from your money. You don’t need special supplements. You don’t need an alternative health care “specialist.” All you need to do is follow the basics – 30 g max carbs, protein based on your ideal body weight, and the rest of your calories from healthy fats. Oh, and stay hydrated. Everything else is a bunch of pure BS.

What about the coffee???

I’ll admit, my weakness was coffee. I love lots of honey and lots of cream. Problem is honey has 15 g of carbs per tbsp. I use(d) 1 tbsp per cup for 2 or 3 cups per day. Just 2 cups blows my carb intake.

Want to know a secret? It doesn’t take very long to get used to drinking coffee black. Man up.

Peace out,

Holy MOLLE!!!

I need another pack like I need a hole in the head but sometimes I can’t help myself. I was looking for some ALICE gear for me Hellcat pack and I stumbled across this desert camo MOLLE II large pack for sale. Big deal, they’re all over the place right now. Except this one was only $86.98 plus shipping. Oh, and it’s brand new and genuine USGI. Holy MOLLE!!! How can I pass up a deal like that? I can’t. When I see something like this I lose all self control. I mean, come on… Brand New. Genuine USGI. And $87??? It would be a waste of money to NOT get one.

My new MOLLE pack…

(This will be just a quick overview, a full review will come later) With shipping, total cost was about $110. It is indeed brand new and comes fully assembled. I couldn’t find any obvious problems when I gave it a quick look over. It was missing the “US” stamp on the back, so maybe the government considered that a defect? For civilian use I think that’s a plus. It doesn’t include sustainment pouches, but it’s a big pack so I probably don’t need the extra storage. If I do, MOLLE II sustainment pouches are cheap and easy to find. Desert camo isn’t my favorite color, but that price…

To put this in perspective, this is a brand new MOLLE pack being sold for less $$$ than a new surplus ALICE pack. Heck, it’s cheaper than some used ALICE packs I’ve seen. And definitely cheaper than I’ve found MOLLE II packs anywhere else. (The more expensive ones I’ve found come with 2 sustainment pouches, but those aren’t worth a $70 higher price tag).

I’m really glad I found this deal. Usually I find these things just after the seller runs out so maybe I got lucky this time. It should make a really good long term camping or bugout bag. I just wish mine was ACU like the one in the video instead of desert camo. BTW, this guy’s (Reallybigmonkey1) YouTube channel has lots of good bushcrafting videos…

Peace out,

Growing vegetables in small spaces

growing vegetables in small spacesOne advantage of being a backyardsman over a backwoodsman – it’s easier to grow vegetables in your back yard than it is in the back woods. Even if your yards is small you probably have room to grow some. Growing vegetables in small spaces is easy if you know how. It also doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some tips I’ve learned on growing vegetables in small spaces.

Planning a small space vegetable garden

I do lots of reading on urban gardening and small space gardening, and all I can say is most people’s idea of a small garden is huge compared to the space I have. Either that, or they’re talking about a garden that’s mostly ornamental and doesn’t produce a lot of vegetables. That’s not what I want. Gardening is relaxing, but I want more out of it than “just” relaxation. To me, that means fresh produce.

The first thing is to figure out how to get the most production out of your available space. This was hard for me since I don’t want my back yard to be all vegetables. I want to keep my brush pile. I’m planning on putting in a pond, a fire pit, and a shed. I want to have room to pitch a tent or set up a poncho hootch. It needs to keep enough of a natural look to attract wildlife (mainly rabbits and quail). Oh, and it all needs to fit in a yard that’s only 40′ x 60′, with a good chunk of that taken up by a concrete patio.

Raised beds and container gardening

After my experience last year, I’m convinced raised beds and containers are best for growing vegetables in small spaces. The squash plants we had in raised beds out-produced the ones in the ground by at least 3 times. In fact, the winter squash we planted directly in the ground didn’t produce at all. The plants we had in raised beds also took less water, and we didn’t have any problems with weeds. The only downsides to raised beds are that they’re not portable and they can be expensive. We paid $50 each for ours, which was cheaper than I could have bought the lumber and built them myself for.

Not all vegetables need the space of a raised bed though, and container gardening works great for those. The nice thing about container gardening is it’s easy to move your garden around if you need to rearrange your space. Also, containers can be cheap or even free. We grew our pole beans, snap peas, and tomatoes in containers last year. Most of the containers were gotten free from local landscaping companies doing work around the neighborhood (tip – landscaping companies can also be a good source for free grass clippings).

If you’re looking for ideas for containers or beds, check out the Urban Gardening section at Gardener’s Supply. Don’t buy their stuff – it’s too expensive – just check it out for ideas. Then build your own…

Pick the right plants

My dad was an avid gardener. He and my mom had a 1 acre lot that was devoted mostly to a big garden. There was no shady fence surrounding it, so the entire garden got full sun all day. There was s stream for irrigation. With no space constraints, no shade to worry about, and free water, they could pretty much plant whatever they wanted. Well, at least as long as it was suitable for the high desert climate we lived in.

If you’re growing vegetables in small spaces, like an urban garden, you won’t have that luxury. Pick you plants wisely. It’s easy to say just get dwarf varieties but doing that won’t automatically give you big crops from small spaces. When choosing your vegetables, look at how prolific each variety is and not just size of the grown plants. Sometimes the seed sellers will label varieties that do well in containers. The morning and afternoon shade you probably have in your yard seems to have the same effect as a shorter growing season, so favor varieties that have a shorter required growing season. I’m a seed saver, so I try to only use open pollinated seed. If all you care about is production, hybrid seed should be OK.

Finding more space to grow vegetables

Another trend that seems to be popular is Square Foot Gardening. I had the book, read the book, and it’s very interesting. If I had even less space than I do, I would definitely try it. Other ideas to try are vertical gardening, hanging pots, indoor gardening, or guerrilla  gardening. Get out and explore your Area of Operation (AO). Unless you live in a very urban environment, chances are good you’ll find at least a couple places to do a little “stealth gardening”.

I plan on writing about this a lot on The Backyardsman, so check back often. I have lots of ideas to try and hopefully lots more tips to pass on. Until next time…

Peace out,

USGI Military Poncho – WTF is so hard about getting it right???

USGI ponchoThe USGI military poncho is maybe one of the most useful things our military has ever produced. It can be used as a poncho (duh…). If you don’t need rain gear, it can be used as a tarp or made into a tent. Combined with a poncho liner, it makes a pretty nice 3 season sleeping system. Really, it’s one of the simplest and therefore brilliant ideas I’ve seen. A water proof skin, convenient size, hole for your head, and grommets along the sides so you can easily attach to it. Simple, versatile, extremely useful for preppers, backwoodsmen, a backyardsman, heck, pretty much just about any one. In fact they’re so useful that at least a few companies are making copies rip-offs of the USGI poncho. It’s such a simple design you’d think they could get it right but they don’t. And that really p****s me off…

WTF is so hard about this???

You’d think it would be easy to copy. All the clones I’ve seen are the correct dimensions, some are even made from better material than the original. So why do the clone makers insist on NOT putting grommets around the edge? You know, so you could actually tie it together with a woobie instead of just thinking about it? WTF good are snaps instead of grommets? Do the stupid snaps make it easy to lash the tarp to trees to make a poncho hooch? No, they don’t. So WTF does NO ONE make a USGI style tarp with real USGI style grommets along the sides?

Even worse, they market them in a way that impllies they’re “the same” as a real USGI poncho. ”
Men’s US Waterproof Ripstop Hooded Nylon Festival Poncho in Olive Green” by a company calling themselves Mil-Tec. Sounds legit, but it’s FAKE. NO GROMMETS on the sides like a real USGI poncho would have. Other favorite FAKE things I’ve seen them called are “Poncho Army Ripstop Ponch,” “USGI Style Poncho,” I’m sure there are more. And they’re ALL FAKE unless the have grommets around the edge, yet are marketed to make you think you’re getting a poncho that’s the equivelent to a USGI military poncho.

It’s not the quality, it’s the LYING…

If you don’t need the grommets, the quality on some of these fakes is actually pretty good. The quality isn’t the problem. The problem is if you need the grommets (which I do) and the company intentionally markets their non USGI poncho in a way to make you believe it’s compatible with a real USGI poncho. Guess what? Without the grommets, IT’S NOT THE SAME. Implying it is, is f*****g LYING. So why do they do it? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to put grommets around the f*****g edges and make it TRULY compatible with the USGI poncho?

OK, rant over…

Peace out,

What did you do to prep this week?

CERT-ified – my fingerprints and background check cleared so this week I get to pick up my credentials from the Sherrif’s office. I’m now officially in CERT. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I’ve been doing to prep the past week…

Getting ready to garden…

Last year we had a pretty decent garden. We had so much squash we were able to give a lot away to friends and neighbors. Our okra and tomatos also produced well, but the beans were only so-so. One thing we found is vegeatbles in the raised beds did really good. The ones planted in the ground did poorly. So I’ve been reading about ways to make cheap raised beds… how deep the soil needs to be, etc.

The other thing about last year’s garden was that everything we grew was a hybrid. Fine for eating, but you can’t save seeds from your harvest and use them the following year. Well, as a prepper I’d kind of like to be able to not have to depend on always buying seeds… so I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about open pollinated vegetable seeds. It turns out you don’t need hybrid seeds to get good crops. So this year most of our garden (except for Zephyr squash – long story…) will be grown from open pollinated seed.


Also getting ready for summer, I took my kid to the local REI store to try on back packs. We found one that fit him really well. The salesman loaded it up with about 35 lbs and let him walk around with it. He loved everything about it except the color. He wants camo. No one makes a good quality kid’s backpack in camo. I ordered him a Camelbak surplus military pack. It should be here tomorrow, we’ll see how well it fits…

Coming week’s preps…

This week I have my monthly prepper’s Meetup. I’ve perfected my beef jerky, so I’ll probably do a couple batches. I also need to start my online FEMA courses. Until next time… What did you do to prep this week?

Peace out,