Thursday, December 18, 2014

Home Front: summer garden 2014

As with previous years, I planted a vegetable garden over the winter-spring cusp, in order to have a good summer crop of greens.

Using wood I reclaimed from pallets that had been left on the road-side by a neighbor who was having some renovations done, I built this box in an afternoon, dug post holes, dropped it in place and left it lay-fallow with weed-suppressing cardboard boxes lining the base. I then filled the box 3/4 the way up with a mulch/soil mix that I had purchased (and got a water-saving rebate for), and hit our local garden/hardware store for seedlings.

In previous years I have planted in our low-sided veggie patches, but this year, as a result of my lovely partner Omega's request for a raised bed, to give better access to our crops without the need for bending and kneeling, which is one reason I built a hip-high box.

These little guys are the other reason. We now have four Flemish Giant rabbits. They started off palm sized, and will eventually get to be 10 kg (22 lb) each. I have now made two wired-off enclosures for them to run in, but we found they could both climb, and hop into the raised bed. Hence the "over the top" chicken wire over the bed, and the over-hanging lip to make a more effective perimeter fence.

A lucky finding was that the rabbits didn't like the artichoke plant that we had regrow this year from last years failed attempt. We've managed several meals worth of artichokes and Tactical Baby enjoys selecting which "dinosaur flowers" we are going to have. There are also several onion plants in there, also segregated from the bunnies, and it looks like we might have some invincible potato plants coming up as well.

I lined the side of the raised bed with a strip of copper tape, which has proven to be an effective slug and snail deterrent. We did have a cabbage moth caterpillar problem, which was attacking the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants we planted, but the invading bunnies ate all the buds from them anyway, so we lost those crops.

What we do have going however is two kinds of kale, spinach,  Vietnamese mint and coriander, tomato and spring onions. We also have several eggplants on the go in there.

Its a very high density plot, and it takes some rummaging to get from one plant to another, but being hip-high has been a great improvement.

My other partner Lorin has been admonishing me for planting the tomatoes in there, and not separately, because of how big they've gotten, but I'm a sucker for high density, bountiful and bodacious harvests, and that covers my gardening too!

We might even give the vertical garden another go, although we've left it a bit late in the season. Between the two extra rain barrels we put in, and the unfortunate reduction in our number of chookens (lost 7 overnight, some kind of illness, down to one, the unkillable Princess Layer, veteran of four previous calamities) we might even make more use of the back yard this summer. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Movies: These Final Hours, Aftermath

 It's getting to be holiday season, so I thought I'd tempt you with a couple of films to set your moods. Its going to be a hot, dry and probably burning summer here in Australia. We're all waiting for the next installment in the Mad Max franchise, which I can tell you, was pretty formative for me, even the Mad Duo see the effect it's had on me.

I've always enjoyed disaster flicks, for both situation suggestions, but also for the "no, NO you idiot, take that, leave those, get out of there, CLOSE THE DOOR" moments that I can share with my friends. Its even better when the movies are more "Everybody Smith" than "Master Sergeant Squarejaw", because I can relate more, myself.  It goes doubly so when the setting is one I recognize and relate to: I was thrilled by 28 Days Later far more than by Armageddon .

So, here are two trailers I saw not too long ago, for movies I hope to watch on my days off as I'm canning supplies and sharpening my Tomahook.

These Final Hours (2014)

It's the last day on earth, twelve hours before a cataclysmic event will end life as we know it. James makes his way across a lawless and chaotic city to the party to end all parties. Along the way, he somewhat reluctantly saves the life of a little girl named Rose who is desperately searching for her father. Stuck with the unexpected burden of responsibility, James is forced to come to terms with what really matters in life as the final hours tick away.

Aftermath (2014)

The devastating horror of a nuclear apocalypse is now reality and nine desperate strangers find themselves clinging to life in a farmhouse cellar, while radioactive fallout descends on the darkened world above. These would-be survivors face the nightmare of dwindling supplies, poisonous air and the greatest threat of all - the hordes of zombie-like refugees who want in. With each dying day, their choice becomes clearer - stay and let the makeshift shelter become their tomb or face the unknown terrors of the world outside.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: 15L Dry Bag

Whether you're stuck on the side of a hill in monsoon season or you're kayaking to your bug-out shack, it pays to have a means of keeping your kit dry and safe. When I first got my Aquayak kayak, I saw these, and thought that I should add them into my collection at some stage.

Made from 70D nylon fabric with reinforced and sealed seems,  drybags like these are also treated to 7000mm waterproofness rating. 7m is a lot of depth for a bag, but a deep rating is better than a shallow one!

Attachment loops at the top which tie in to the sealing system give you hanging points, if not a carry system.

One of the key things about these kinds of bags is the closure system. With a seam of webbing along the lip, and a fastex style clip at either end, the bag is sealed by tightly wrapping the lip over and over itself, then clasping the clips together, it locks itself in tight.

The seal it produces is very tight, and gives the bag a near airtight seal. It is in fact so airtight that you need to take that into account when loading it up and sealing it up.

If you don't squeeze all the air out of the bag first, you get an inflated and buoyant bag. Emptied of air and you can get a dense, compacted and watertight storage unit.

I managed to fit several of my Platatac Half-fleece jumpers and a blanket in this one, and have had no trouble filling it with a number other items. The smallish circumference makes it for easy stowage, either in my kayak, slung under a pack or in the boot of the car.

Either way, its a very good way of keeping valuables high and dry.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Events: Three years. 430 articles, 472,000 views.

Here we are at the end of 2014. Next year we can expect Marty McFly to ride his hoverboard, and the Events of Neon Genesis Evangelion are to begin. Good times.

Where it all started!

Two year review!

400 posts shout-out

This has been a busy year, I've not managed to post as often as I'd like, due to work and home commitment, but I've been delighted with the responses I've had, both in regular readership, new readers and whole new frontiers.

I'm thrilled to have been taken up as a writer for both BreachBangClear and RecoilWeb, as well as keeping in touch with the folks at Zombease and my fellow Z.E.R.T members.

I like to think my writing style has matured, and my skill levels have increased, both in my survival and preparatory skill sets, but also in my reviewing and planning skill sets. I also seem to be almost singlehandedly keeping the Kickstarter community funded, and gladly.

Thanks to all of you; good prepping, be equipped and ready for anything!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Propper - Gen Multipurpose Bag

As first seen on RecoilWeb .....

Here is another part of my Propper haul, and one that I have been getting a whole lot of utility out of.  I took it with me to Fiji for my island get-away, and it rode as my carry-on as well as emergency toddler change station. It's been my day-to-day bag since then, swapping out from my beloved Platatac Bullock Echo as I've needed a more briefcase style option rather than a backpack for my current duties.

This is the Propper Gen Multipurpose Bag and it punches well above its weight.

Filled with storage options, the bag offers a rather large carry-capacity to an otherwise standard briefcase-style design.  I can fit three 2L (2.1qt) milk jugs to the main compartment with no problem.

One of the first things I noticed, and have come to love, about this bag, was the easy-access, dual zipper opening, tapered grab handles. Grab and yank, and the bag opens up. No more fiddly zipper pulls and fine motor skills needed to grab your needfulls. More on that later.

The bag has a wide webbing strap, with a very well made non-slip shoulder-pad, a real boon for a habitual over-packer like myself. The shoulder pad itself has webbing loops that allow you to fix it in place via hook-and-loop tabs, through the pad, to eliminate slippage.  The strap can be adjusted at each end with a broad tri-glide loop, and there is a big-mouth 50mm (2") Fastex buckle at each end of the strap, for quick release. One of my biggest gripes with previous satchels has been the "slung across my chest" trap.

There is also a inset pocket at each end of the bag, between the main compartment and the side-saddle pockets, that very neatly fits my Propper Liberty bottle and even takes my venerable 1L SIGG bottle
The "front" panel of the bag is faced with a broad loop field, for patches, and I've made great use of that. Inside that front facing panel is a very spacious document compartment, with three distinct sections, that will fit a number of CD cases, iPads and the like. A hook-and-loop tabbed strap keeps your valuable documents and devices secured, and as with all the zippers on this bag, it features rubber-moulded zipper-pulls as well as "inverted" zipper material to give maximum crud intrusion protection.  
The opposing "inside" facing panel features an even greater selection of pockets, for holding all your needful tools and tricks. 
I have mine loaded up with a variety of goodies; both eating and entry hardware, medical and electronic. Things I don't like to leave home without! 
Again, the double  rubber-molded zipper pulls give good, fast access to my kit, and the panel itself offers a flat clean workspace that is flush to the ground, thanks to the design. 
You can see the main carry handles extend all the way through the pack from the side panels,  they continue all the way under the bag as it happens. They are NOT going to tear off, no matter what you fill it with.
The main compartment has its own surprises as well. Twin storage pockets add further capacity to the narrow ends and the bottom of the compartment is lined with loop-field to facilitate the removable divider, which itself has zippered pockets for business cards, death-cards, whatever. 
It is also loop-faced and includes a 3-channel organizer for all your highlighter pens, or double stacked mags, to go along with the hook-field sided adjustable pistol sleeve that would accommodate most handguns. I don't have any justification to have that in use, but you might. 
Coupled with the grab handle opening strap and you have a quick-access concealed carry option right there.

The side pockets, two on one end, and one bigger one on the other, follow the same pattern. Taped seams, inverted zipper runs to keep crud out, and internal pockets to maximize organization. The single big side pocket also features a clear plastic external ID pocket.

One more cool feature are the twin, adjustable hook-and-loop retention straps for an umbrella or flashlight that sits over the"inside" pocket. It also happens to be a perfect fit for my DeadOn Anihilator Superhammer, because, you never know ...

All in all, this is a pretty awesome bag. It certainly does everything it sets out to do, and had weathered all I've thrown at it, from kicking around trains, planes and hospitals, to being an overnight bag and a day-to-day hauler of my ever changing loadout.
If I had to pick something to gripe about it would be the overall "width" of the bag. When I sling it either across the front of my hips like a paratroopers reserve, I've found that it is  so wide that I bump and brush people with it where normally I wouldn't have, with a backpack. Same goes when I sling it behind me. The addition of the end pockets, whilst adding valuable additional storage, also add to the bulk of the bag.

That said, I'm very pleased with it, and will keep using it until it dies or I find something better.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Rhino Ropework - Tritium fob

I wanted to get my partner Lorin a piece of jewelry for her birthday, but didn't feel that a store-bought piece was really "me" ( as you might imagine), but I was lucky in that I'd been following the exploits of Shane Marks of Rhino Ropework who as well as some really excellent looking marlin spikes and fids for ropework, has also been turning out some really lovely fobs, and better yet, hollowing them out and fitting them with vials of tritium!

You may recall that I had a bead made, with six vials of tritium installed by H3, for my keychain,and I really liked it, though that bead had exposed vials, all but two have since been broken.

The fob I commissioned encompassed the vial, with four sets of three holes drilled, allowing the light to be exposed, but protecting the vial in its sheath of stainless steel. I was very pleased to see that its light, being a much bigger vial, was quite bright, and well exposed by the fob. It is certainly bright enough for me to pinpoint it in a darkened room, tent or in fact, deep underground whilst caving on a recent adventure.

The fob has a hole drilled through at the top, with which a necklace, be it link or a ball-chain to suit the wearer, or even feed a thin split ring through to add it to a keychain. The vial is securely seated and snug within the fob.

It's an elegant piece, rugged and functional in the same moment.
Probably the best part about it was how much Lorin enjoys wearing it, and consequently how much I enjoy seeing it being worn. Much like the SAR GlobalTool MoonGlow disk I wear, it is a great spotting device, without being obtrusive. With tritium, it's glow will last for years, no recharging needed.

Rhino Ropeworks  produces tools in copper, stainless steel, brass and even some in titanium. You should totally check out their Facebook for the most recent tools and designs, and watch this space for when my marlin spike comes in!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: Power Practical - PowerPotXL

Another Kickstarted project, another power generating project and addition to my off-grid arsenal.

This is a second generation thermoelectric device, that was launched as a Kickstarter in order to get the new models out there. These are the PowerPot X from Power Practical and I really liked it.

I've covered the charge-indicating power regulator from Power Practical previously, a USB dongle that indicated the wattage being output by power sources, (or conversely, the draw). I've also covered a thermoelectric generator before, in the form of the Tellurex tPod tea-light candle powered light/charger. I also wish-lusted the BioLite camp stove too, but haven't laid hands on one yet.

The PowerPot X is a sleek 10-watt generator that converts heat into electrical power. It works by housing a thermoelectric module between the base of the regular pot, and an aluminium base-plate. The modules are encased in weatherproof high temp silicone casing  Just heat up water in the pot and the PowerPot  will immediately start putting out electricity to power or charge your devices.

The smaller first-generation PowerPot V, only has a 1 amp output, but the X can push up to 2 amps, sufficient to charge larger and more power hungry devices like iPads and SLR batteries. 

The X ships with a standard USB (5V) port, and comes supplies with one of Power Practical's three-headed adapter cables (mini, micro and 30-pin). The detachable cable has a one-way-only connector to the body of the pot for safety, and three-feet of highly durable, flame-resistant cabling.  Built into the USB end of the cable is a solid-state voltage regulator provides safe and stable power at up to 10 Watts charge any number of small high-tech devices.

The PowerPot X comes in two sizes, the X is 2.3L (3 qrt) and the XL (which I selected, because bigger) is 3.8 L (4 qrt), each having the same kind of hard-anodized aluminium pot, with folding handles. The XL measures 19cm x 13cm (7.5" x 5"), and weighs 770g (11.2 oz) . Not bad for an output of 10w, 2amp, 5V as infinate as your water and heat source.

That's one thing to note. You can't run it dry, or the thermocouple will get fried. I've run mine on both an electric hotplate and by gas, both on the home stage, and also a propane BBQ plate, to remarkable success. Whilst out camping recently, we charged a number of iPhones and iPads, in fairly short order.

The size of the pot allowed me to boil 5 cobs of corn at a time as well as charging. This could be used at each meal-time to top up devices, recharge lights and batteries. As long as you have water to act as your thermal mass, and fuel to heat it, the Power Pot is a never-ending source of electricity in a lightweight and dual purpose package.

I almost look forwards to our next power outage, so I can dazzle the neighborhood with my awesome power.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...