What’s a good motorcycle for a Backyardsman?

Last week I ordered a motorcycle. My wife thinks it was a sudden decision, but it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. She should know, it’s not like I haven’t talked to her about it – a bunch of times. She’s always found some reason why it’s a “bad idea” at the time. “Just wait, not right now.” I guess I should thank her, because my tastes have changed a lot over the past few years. I used to love street bikes, especially Harleys and vintage Triumphs. I still do, but those are pure street bikes and not really suited to the needs of a Backyardsman. So what is a good motorcycle for a Backyardsman? It depends on exactly what you want, but for me it has to have a few things.

What motorcycle should a Backyardsman buy?

First, I need a bike that can run on dirt, and I don’t mean just smooth, hard packed dirt roads. Where I live, lots of the roads are steep, rocky, and rutted with lots of sharp turns. Some run through sand washes, others are muddy and slippery when wet.

Second, it also needs to work OK on the road. I don’t want to deal with trailering it or loading into the back of my truck just to get to where I want to ride. I want to be able to commute on it. Heck, I want to be able to take road trips on it. Just being street legal isn’t good enough, it also has to ride well on the street.

As it turns out, the motorcycle that meets all my needs doesn’t exist. I decided on an SWM RS500R for reasons I’ll talk about in a future post, but I’m probably going to end up getting a second bike. The RS500 does most of the things I want now, but it’s not even close to doing some of the others, at least not very well. Like 200-300 mile road trips…

What I’m looking at…

My first choice was actually a Suzuki DR-Z400S, but the dealer in town was out of stock. Other bikes that are interesting to me are Yamaha (WR250R and WR450F), Suzuki (besides the DR-Z 400, the DR-Z650 and the TU250X), the Honda XR650L, the KTM 350 EXC-F, the Hawk 250 Enduro, the Phatmoto All Terrain, and the Rokon Scout. I can’t afford all of them, but I’m going to study and write about them. Hopefully, at least one or two of them will join my SWM in the garage.

For now, I’m loving on my SWM. It should be home this Friday, and I already have a few things I want to do to it. Mainly an auxilary gas tank. Before I can do that though, I need to replace the dual mufflers with a single. Anyway, hope to have a first impression/riding post in the next couple weeks. Until next time…

Peace out,

Getting caught up, looking forward to unemployment…

I’m finally getting some time to get caught up. Pretty much all I’ve had time for here is working on my 365 photo project. After getting hacked at the beginning of the month I haven’t even had time for that. It took 2 weeks to recover and I’m still not caught up all the way. I have the pictures but it takes awhile to decide which one to use, then edit and caption it. I got about a weeks worth done today, and hopefully I’ll be caught up by next weekend.

Getting ready for unemployment…

The thing keeping my the busiest is getting ready for unemployment. I was told earlier this year that there’s no guarantee my contract will be renewed at the end of June. Not only that, there’s a chance it could be terminated any time before then with 30 days notice. I hate dealing with uncertainty, so I signed a voluntary early buyout agreement. This guarantees I’ll keep working through the end of June and also gives me a small severance package. I’ve been wanting to quit and do my own thing for a long time, so this is actually good news. If only I could get my wife to see it that way…

Anyway, I’ve been busy getting ready. For one thing, I’m documenting everything I do so my friend (who still works there) will know pretty much how to do my job. He’ll be stuck doing it and I don’t like leaving  friends hanging. Plus I don’t want him calling me with work questions after I retire… lol. I’m also traing a kid (student worker) who hopefully – eventually – be hired as my replacement. All good stuff.

Besides prepping at work, I’m also getting ready around the home front. I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning up the back yard and getting ready for a garden this summer. Also started working out again and “planning” to start eating healthy. And most important, making sure everything I want to buy is bought before my wife finds out I’m gonna be jobless after June… like a motorcycle… Also the mundane stuff of course, like cutting our monthly spending, enrolling in a health insurance plan, and finding a safe place to sleep for the first few weeks after my wife finds out.

Post-employment plans…

I’m already planning on going to Wilderness EMT school in July (the same one that’s been cancelled twice so far b/c of Kung Flu). I’ll be done with that in early August and don’t have any firm plans after that. I’m really hoping for self employement. I’m really burned out on working for others. One option I think I would like is working the camping or fishing department at our local Scheels. Home Depot might be OK too, and we have one close to our house So we’ll see…

The main thing I’m looking forward to though is having more time for woods running. Or in my dase, desert running. I haven’t had much time over the last 15-20 years to go off the beaten path even around my own local area. Hell, just last week I learned about a nice big bass pond less than 5 miles from my house. I mentioned it to a friend who lives almost next to it. Not only did he know all about it, he’s actually pulled bass out of it. He said the biggest he’s caught was a 4 pounder.

There are also tons of trails and dirt roads ripe for exploring (hence the need for a dual sport bike) and of course the garden. I also want to get into raising ducks and rabbits. Anything except sitting around the hause getting nagged at for sitting around the house. And also getting caught up and keeping up with the blog. Anyway, I have a lot more to say (been bottling it up for a long time) but work comes early tomorrow and I have a lot to do. Until next time…

Peace out,

Winter gardening – green onions

Winter gardening - growing green onions indoorsI’m getting restless. Seed catalogs have been coming in the mail and I’m chomping at the bit to start a garden. Some days the weather is so nice that I’m tempted to start now, at least with some kale or spinach. I’m also feeling kind of guilty – last year we didn’t have any garden. At all. So as someone who professes to be as self sufficient as possible, it’s kind of driving me nuts that I can’t garden. I did buy an indoor grow light to try my hand at micro greens, but that’s in the garage where it’s still getting as low as 16° F some nights. Well, last night right out of the blue my wife asked if we could try growing some green onions inside. Really??? Not just yes, but oh HECK YES…

Baby steps…

The thing is, my wife isn’t a prepper. In fact she has a really bad case of normalcy bias. Also she let me convert our living room into a home gym last year, so I wasn’t going to ask for more space in the house to experiment with an indoor winter garden. So when she asked about growing green onions, indoors, now… it was kind of a miracle. As far as prepping goes, growing green onions in our kitchen isn’t a big deal. Almost nothing in fact. But… baby steps, you know? It gets my wife interested in producing some of our own food. It gives us experience with indoor gardening during the winter. And, well., it should be fun…

Winter gardening – green onions

Green onions are really easy to grow. You don’t even have to start with transplant sets, let alone seeds. We just went to Walmart and got a pack of green onions. Make sure to get ones that aren’t trimmed – they need to still have the roots on the bottom of the bulb.

green onions ready to plant
Tops trimmed, ready to plant. Make sure to not trim the roots on the bottom of the bulb.

You don’t need to make this complicated. The soil needs to be at least 4″ deep, but deeper than 6″ is a waste. Home Depot and Lowes have 6″ deep x 6″ wide x 24″ long rectangular planters that would be perfect. We just used a plastic dish pan I had in the garage. Soil should be something that drains well. I had a bag of potting soil in the garage so I used some of that.

green onions planted
We planted ours in an old plastic dish pan. Make sure the bulb is covered by the soil with the leaf part of the plant above the soil.

Once you have your pots and soil set up, just plant the onions so the transition between the bulb and the leaves is level with the top of the soil. You might be asking “What’s the point? You just stuck some already grown plants into some soil. You could have just eaten them as is without the extra trouble.” If I was eating the whole plant, you’d be right. The nice thing about green onions though is if you just cut the leaves, they’ll keep growing back. So we’ll have green onion leaves as long as I can keep the plants alive.

Peace out,

Don’t make New Years resolutions

I don't make News Years resolutionsI don’t make New Years resolutions. They sound great, like a New Beginning or something like that, but really to me they’re a waste of time. I guess they’re a waste of time for a lot of others, too. People who study these things say that around 80% of those making New Years resolutions don’t keep them. In fact most people last less than 2 weeks. They “average” day for giving up is January 12. Most of the rest give up by the end of February. If the failure rate is so high, why even bother? Look at it this way too… if something is so important that you have to RESOLVE to do it, why wait for the New Year to start it? Why not get off your butt and start working on it now?

Just do it…

How about this… don’t make New Years resolutions for 2020. Are there things you were going to RESOLVE to do? Today is December 31, what’s wrong with starting today? Why do you need to wait until next year? Just do it already. I didn’t do a lot of things this year I wish I had. I should have worked out more. My shed still needs finishing. We didn’t have a garden. I didn’t get my kid to finish his Hunter Safety course. I still need to get my General class amateur radio license and finish some FEMA training. And about a million other things…

What about you? Do you wish you’d spent more time outdoors this year? Don’t make a resolution to spend more time in the outdoors in 2020. Go to Alastair Humphry’s microadventure site for some ideas and plan a microadventure. Heck, do one tonight. Skip watching the ball in Times Square drop and spend the night in the back of your truck or your back yard.

Been thinking about getting in shape? Eating healthier? Living a more rural lifestyle even though you’re stuck living in big city? The Mountain Guerrilla blog has you covered. Check it out, or better yet get a subscription to his Patreon page. I don’t often recommend buying online access, but the Tier 2 support level is only $5/month and well worth it.

Wish you’d done more fishing? Take up fly tying or build a lure display box. Can’t hunt because you live in the city? Make a rabbit stick or build a box trap from scrap wood. Want some reading inspiration? Dig out your copies of Backwoodsman Magazine or check out the Backwoods Home blog.

Don’t make New Years resolutions

My point is, just do it. Don’t wait to make a New Years resolution. Everything I talked about above is free, easy, and you don’t even have to wait until next year to get started. Do something now. I know what I’m doing tonight, and it won’t involve the television, heavy drinking, or revelry. What are you going to do today instead of waiting for the New Year? Until next year…

Peace out,

Getting Started With Reloading

Reloading is a great activity for the Backyardsman who’s into shooting. It’s one outdoor related activity you can do without getting to the great outdoors. Getting started with reloading is easy, but it can be confusing. There are lots of choices in equipment and lots of bad advice.  A lot of “reviews” are nothing more than sales pitches. This will be a multi-part series because there’s too much info to fit into one post. I’ll start out by clearing up THE most common misconception about reloading. After that I’ll give an overview of what you need to know. Future posts will get more into specifics.

The biggest reloading misconception:

The biggest misconception about reloading is that it will save you a lot of money. If you shoot a lot, or shoot a gun that takes expensive ammo, reloading can save you money. That doesn’t mean it will save you money. Take 9mm for example. You can buy 9mm ammo for 16.5¢ per round. Assuming free brass, the cheapest I’ve seen anyone claim they can reload 9mm for is 7¢ per round, saving 9.5¢ per round. The cheapest reloading kit I can find right now is about $130. Add another $40 for a set of dies and figure $170 total to get started.

Saving 9.5¢ per round means you’d break even at 1800 loaded rounds. If you don’t shoot much, that’s a lot of rounds. And those 1800 rounds will be loaded on a single stage press (slow), so figure about 20 – 30 hours of time, too. Of course you could get a faster press. The one in the lead picture is a Dillon 1050. Auto indexing with case collator/feeder and bullet feeder. It could easily knock out 1800 rounds in 2 hours. It also costs around $2000 as pictured. So you’ll break even after loading about 21000 rounds of 9mm…

Getting started with reloading:

Even if you don’t save money, I think reloading your own ammo is a really good idea. I find it very relaxing. It lets you make ammo specifically tailored for your guns. And when you get into premium ammo, the costs savings per round are better than they are with cheap 9mm plinking ammo.

Getting started with reloading is easy. Especially if you’re loading pistol ammo, all you need is:

  • A bench. You need this to mount your press. The bench needs to be stable and have a solid top so it doesn’t flex while you’re operating the press.
  • Reloading press. This could be a single stage, turret, or progressive press. Single stage is usually cheapest but it’s also the slowest. A good turret press costs more than most single stage presses, but less than a good progressive. It’s also faster than a single stage but not as fast as a progressive. The fastest reloading press will be a progressive, but they’re also the most expensive. I’ll go into more detail on presses in my next post.
  • Powder measure. This is what dispenses the powder. If you’re running a single stage press, most likely the powder goes into a little pan. You then weigh it and dump it into the cases.
  • Powder scale. If you don’t put enough powder in your ammo, you’ll have a squib load which can result in the gun blowing up in your hand. If you put in too much powder, over pressure can result in the gun blowing up in your hand. Powder is measured by weight, not volume, so you’ll need a good powder scale to help make sure your gun doesn’t blow up in your hand.
  • Die set. Reloading dies are what do the work of sizing the brass, seating the bullet, and maybe applying a crimp. Buy the best dies you can afford. If you use carbide dies and you’re loading straight wall cases you don’t need to use case lube when sizing. I use carbide rifle dies as well. They need case lube but they seem to run smoother than non-carbide dies.
  • Case cleaner. You need to clean your cases before you load them. If you’re starting with brand new clean brass, you might get away with not cleaning it through a couple loadings, but eventually it’s going to get grungy. Grungy brass gets stuck in chambers, causes FTFs, and can damage your dies. So just clean your brass.
  • Case prep. If you’re shooting bottle neck cartridges, they stretch over repeated firings. Because of that, you’ll need some way to measure case length as well as a case trimmer.
  • Components. Bullets, powder, and primers.
  • Misc. If you’re reloading rifle cartridges (or pistol with non-carbide dies) you’ll need case lube. Military surplus brass will need a tool to fix the primer pockets. If you’re shooting precision rifle, you’ll need… lots of stuff that I won’t get into in this series…

And that’s pretty much it.

OK, so now what?

I’m not making any specific recommendations this time. Generally, it’s almost never a good idea to buy the cheapest gear you can find. That doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive though. Stick with well known brands with good customer service reputations. It’s OK to mix and match different brands. Unless you shoot a lot, a single stage or turret press probably makes more sense than a progressive.

Next time I’ll talk about reloading presses. I’ll also start talking about dies and other things you’ll need, but go into detail on presses with specific recommendations. Until next time…

Peace out,

A Bushcrafter, a Survivalist, and a Prepper walk into a bar…

Haven’t had much time to write lately. Went through some life crises but all is well now so hear I am. Anyway, a Bushcrafter, a Survivalist, and a Prepper walk into a bar. The bar tender looks up and says “Are you guys identical triplets?” I know it’s lame. If you’re reading this blog you already know what a bushcrafter is, but what’s the difference between a survivalist and a prepper? It’s something I wonder about and it seems to be a pretty common question. Last week at my monthly prepper group someone asked and for the first time I heard an answer that was simple and made sense.

The guy who runs our group is who gave the answer. He describes himself as a former survivalist who’s now more of a prepper (when I use those terms, it’s without some of the connotations the media likes to ascribe to them). His answer was short and sweet:

They both prepare. A survivalist prepares to do without. A prepper prepares so he doesn’t have to do without.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Take knives for example. A survivalist will want to know how to make his own. After all, ancient people did so why not? Find a suitable rock, figure out how to put a sharp edge on it, find a stick, figure out a way to attach the “blade” to the “handle” and viola! A knife. A prepper just goes out and buys a couple (or a couple dozen) knives.

Same with fire. A survivalist will know a half dozen ways to make a fire using nothing they can’t find in the wilderness. A prepper will have a couple ferro rods, several types of matches, a few butane lighters, and maybe a flame thrower.

I could go on, but that should be enough to understand the idea. A survivalist hopes to really mostly or entirely on skills. A prepper relies a lot (some say too much) on gear. Both have some valid points to support their views. A survivalist will say you can have all the gear in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it, or it gets lost or stolen, you’re still dead. A prepper will point out that sometimes you need gear know matter how much skill you have. For example, the world’s best skydiver falling out of an airplane without a parachute…

So what about the Backyardsman?

Where does this leave the Backyardsman? Is he (or she) a prepper or a survivalist? I think both. I tend to the prepper side. What can I say? I’m a gear junky. At the same time, I know my gear won’t do me or my family any good if I don’t know how to use it. I also know I need to provide even if I lose my gear. I know I don’t spend enough time learning skills.

What it comes down to for me is balance. If you’re just doing it for fun then do what is fun. If you’re concerned with the way things are going though, and want to “prepare” for bad times, keep it balanced. If you’re strong on skills but light on gear, look to see if there is at least some gear that can fill in on areas where skill might not be enough. If you’re heavy on gear but lacking skills, hide the credit card, get out in your back yard, and learn some skills.

See? Simple, short, and sweet. Peace out,

The Backyardsman

BackyardsmanWelcome to The Backyardsman. You might be wondering just what a Backyardsman is. Simply, it’s a play on the word Backwoodsman and I’ll admit to blatantly borrowing the term from an excellent article by Scott Siegfried that appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of the Backwoodsman. To quote Scott, “a backyardsman is basically a backwoodsman who sticks closer to home.” Simple, right?

I wish I could spend all my time hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and practicing outdoor survival skills, but I can’t. Mundane things like a family to support, an elderly parent to take care of, a job… just seem to get in the way. On the other hand, I’m not content to just sit in my arm chair and read about how others are living the kind of life that I sometimes envy. I’ll never be a Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Creek Stewart, E J Snyder, or “John Mosby,” but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn new things – even survival skills – in my own back yard. I hope you find something interesting here and enjoy the ride…

Peace out,