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Dear Santa, What knife do you use with Reindeer?

17 Dec

Here at RR we often use knives more than pens or pencils.

As Christmas and the  Holidays approach, we find our thoughts drifting from Corten to brightly wrapped goodies that make us giggle with delight!

What? Old Montana Miscreants can giggle! So what if it sounds like Elk’s coughing and snorting! 🙂

Living in Montana has taught me many things. When we’re not welding on boxes or pouring pilings, we don’t linger on the couch. We live outdoors. Our trucks and horses are our transportation to the places where we hunt, we fish and we work in one of the most beautiful and challenging environments in the United States.

We’re tool users.

And one of the most essential tools in Montana is a good knife. To live here (or in any other challenging environment) you need a high-quality, do-everything-you-throw-at-it hunting knife. If you or yours hike, hunt or fish, you’re in the same boat, rowing against the current! We don’t have to wander far from our porches to see Deer, Elk, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Antelope and even Bears. The broad variety of all that game requires that we carry a knife with several key abilities.

Add the rigors of Bushcraft (the lost art of thriving in the wilds) to that and you’re looking for a very special knife indeed.

As a result, we’re always on the hunt for a really nice Hand Crafted AMERICAN MADE blade at a really good price that is purpose driven and ready for bird or beast.  In our opinion, the right hunting knife is designed to tackle many tasks; Hunting, surviving in the bush and even tactical duties right down to it’s handle.

First, a great hunting knife must be sharp and it must be easily resharpened when you get back to camp.

Second, it better be “Tonka Tough”. A great hunting knife has to be tough enough to handle use and abuse.  If “Sharp” is it’s first name, “Strength” has to be it’s middle name. A great hunting knife  must be strong enough to power through elk sockets and agile enough to skin a deer without making it look like you killed it by tearing it apart with a sawed off shotgun.

It’s ergonomic handle must allow multiple grip options to accommodate any task at hand. A great hunting knife has to be easy to handle in the gloom and doom of dusk and dark, as well as in the snow or cold pouring rain. A great hunting knife will be nimble and quick when it’s covered in elk blood when you’re elbow deep, trying to get the carcass processed before the bears show up to eat somebody…

Well, after a lot of searching (and a lot of knife education) we found a blade that we really like and we’ve been putting it to the test on beast and bird, elk and turkeys with great success.

Long-time readers know that we’ve had some bumps along this road. It forced us to learn a LOT about blades AND their makers. But it doesn’t mean we quit.

We kept looking and then the clouds parted. Okay, actually, we found this guy on the Internet. When we discovered him, it was lust at first sight. This guy crafts blades that make you proud even before you strap them on.

It's CHOPPER time!

When we spoke to him (at length) and gave him our wish list, the discussions started in earnest. We traded literally a thousand emails and PMs back and forth over weeks. We told him what we wanted, he told us what we DIDN’T want… and then he started working to produce a blade that he even named in our honor;

He calls it; “The Bitterroot”

We call it; “The ‘Root”.

Frankly we nicknamed it so that we don’t spill beer out of our mouths trying to use 4 syllable words when we try to talk about it during supper… 🙂

The knifemaker’s name is Kieran Klein (no relation). He runs a Custom Knife Shop called the “Hammer Down Forge”. His claim to fame is that he builds “high quality, affordable, purpose driven blades for the common man”. And he doesn’t just “talk about it”. He actually DOES it. Man, does he do it…

Take a look;


He became our blade building hero seemingly overnight because… not all of us can afford $1,000 Collector EDCs that never see the light of dawn in the field. Kieran told us that from day one, his goal was to build affordable, high quality EDCs, Skinners, Hunters and Camp blades for “us little guys”.

And stuff like THIS...

Kieran really builds for “us”. You know, the kind of guys who use their lunch money and what’s left of their paychecks to buy great gear, one piece at a time after weeks of saving up…

He’s dedicated his trade to that. I hear that he even has a ‘Hawk in the works.

And this...

Now as disclosure, I have to reveal that I personally own one of Hammer Down Forge’s blades now. It’s handled every test we’ve thrown at it. It’s powered through game (large or small) with ease. It’s strong, light and fast. It’s wicked sharp. We really couldn’t be happier with it. Several of us have fielded this blade to test it’s steel. All of us are smiling. Well, most of us are smiling. Some guys scowl when they have to give it back. Me? I’m grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

In fact, I have Kieran making me another one for delivery early next year.

(The reason should be obvious. It’s because this blade will probably disappear before then… my co-workers are thieving, coveting miscreants and they’ve all flat told me not to leave it laying around where it might grow legs and walk off.) 🙂

BubbaBlade1In fact, THIS is my blade. And, I couldn’t be happier with it. I wear it daily. I have to. People keep picking it up and carrying it off! LOL!

I’m not kidding. When the box arrived from Virginia, I had to go track it down. The knife had already made the rounds of the shop and people were trying to hide it. Apparently, I work with a group of no-good, disloyal, kleptomaniacs… LOL!  🙂

Beyond being a high quality blade that will make you smile from ear to ear right out of the box, your ‘Root will look almost the same as mine. There are a few little differences.  The finish on your blade will be “antiqued” and not “satin”. That means that it’ll be slightly darker and much more durable than the finish on my blade. It’ll make that Central American Cocobolo handle really pop! In fact, when I saw his “new” finish, I was disappointed that it wasn’t on MY blade! LOL! Guess what finish is going on the new blade he’s building me?

Say it with me; “ANTIQUED”.  LOL!

The Central American Cocobolo handle will be slightly different because after all, Cocobolo comes from a tree and not a printing press! The pattern will be very similar. It’ll be rich and lustrous and  sexy. And, it’ll be as smooth as a baby’s butt. 🙂

The leather on your sheath will be scribed with a cool border pattern that outlines it and highlights the kydex sheath. I asked for “Something sporty” so he scribed mine with a racing stripe. He did it because “I’m Special”…

Oh stop it! I know it’s true. My mom used to tell me that every day before she crowbarred me into that “little white bus” and then fastened my football helmet on my pointy little head before I departed for that gulag they called a school. In fact, if my mother was still alive, she’d probably forbid me from playing with a knife this sharp. 🙂

FYI: I’ll warn you up front that I’m not kidding. This knife came to us out of the box wicked sharp.

BubbaBlade2Kieran just told us that he has just (1) ‘Root left available for Christmas and he wanted to save it for one of our lucky readers.  He’s building it right now, just for us.

“The Bitterroot” Blade
Shallow Drop Point Hunter
Full Tang Knife
15n20 Steel – Antique finish
1/8th” thick blade with Jimped Spine
Full Flat Grind with .012 behind the edge
4″ blade – razor sharp
8.5″ overall length

Palm Swell Contoured handle
Central American Cocobolo with G10 Liners
Carbon Fiber pins and lanyard tube

Kydex/8-9oz Shoulder leather sheath (with border scribing) and Chicago Screws

It skins like there’s no tomorrow and it slices like a pro. In fact, around here, it’s an EDC of dreams… 🙂

This is a $400.00 knife, all day. Knives of similar quality by other knifemakers will cost you upwards of $600.00.

The first $300.00 will put it under your tree for Christmas.

He’s included Priority Shipping and insurance via USPS in the price. Buy it before Monday the 22nd and it’ll arrive Priority Mail in time to find it’s way into your present pile!

You can contact Kieran at Hammer Down Forge by sending email to:

Or call him direct at:

HE lives in some strange country called “Virginia”… He speakee good Engrish, so it’s probably not even a toll call… 🙂
Tell him Bubba sent you.

What? You thought Santa was going to do everything? 🙂

Ho ho ho!

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Okay, sometimes you have to wait for Christmas Presents…

25 Dec

We’ve all gotten “gifts written on cards” during the “holidays”…

You know, “The card is redeemable for X” kinda stuff.

On several of our blogs (and even on our facebook page) we’ve been talking about chicken coops lately. Many of us live in areas where it’s possible to raise chickens for both eggs and meat. And, some of us live in places where there are other critters who like that idea too.

The hardest part of building  “outbuildings” is that they require a footprint in your yard.

(Oh stop it! I heard that! You don’t have to say; “Doh!” so loudly!) 🙂

My point is that you want those buildings to multi-task if at all possible. The more they do, the less you build, right? Now me, I’m building and then laying down paths as much as possible, because it means less lawn to mow, but others… well… they like their grass.

One of our readers “issued” one of these “IOU Holiday Gift Cards” to his wife, who raises chickens. Now, he didn’t really consult with us first…

He just “Hail Mary’d” us after he actually did it…

He “challenged” us to figure it out. In other words, he wants us to bail his sorry butt out. Oy. 🙂

Hey, we’re always up for a challenge. And we already know that his wife is getting really P.O.’d at the local deer population, that seems to think her potted herb plants are then tastiest things on the planet.

So, what we’re proposing is that we use a small ISBU to build a chicken coop near some trees. Insulated and then “veneered” with wood planking harvested on site. the “coop” roof will reach out to embrace a pair of trees, allowing a large deck to be constructed several feet up off the ground. This elevated deck will be the perfect place for her to raise her herbs, far out of the reach of the local deer. (Imagine that… deer pre-spiced and herbed”… I’m gonna have to give that some thought… maybe while cradling a rifle…)

This deck serves two purposes. It also creates the area beneath it for the chickens to play, carefully fenced and protected from critters who think them “tasty”….

It’s going to look something like this;

ISBU Treehouse Chicken Coop

Now, before you get all “gushy”, note that while we were thinking along similar lines, we didn’t create  the original structure in this “fourth and twenty” plan. It was originally constructed out of wood by an architect in Vienna, Austria (Erwin Stättner) as a playhouse for his kids. The “hutch”, located below the decking was built to protect the family’s prized rabbit from local foxes. We’re simply replicating it using a Corten Steel ISBU as the primary structure and then converting the lower space to a chicken coop capable of sustaining several chickens.

Stay tuned for more information on this really cool “Chicken Castle!”

And from all of us, to all of you;

“Have a VERY Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays!”

We’ll see you guys and gals after the New Year.  🙂

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Four score and several pizzas ago… somebody shot a turkey and shared it with the town… ?

28 Nov

Legend has it that on this day in 1621, a bunch of guys wearing black and white outfits (some of them decked out with big shiny buckles) sat down and broke bread with a bunch of the locals (Native Americans).

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

That seems logical enough, seeing as how those Pilgrims fled oppression and then moved to someplace where they could find a new life… and there were already people there, when they landed those boats.

In school, we were taught that the Pilgrims and the Puritans got all dressed up and then ate turkey backdropped by a mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Um…. Nope. First, they didn’t do this in November at all. It was more like late September or early October. If you’ve ever traveled to that part of the country this time of year, you know that it’s too damned cold for “outdoor parties” in November. That part of the country was still at the tail age of the Ice Age and winter came early and it came HARD. Hell, the snow drifts were taller than most of those guys, even with their big hats on!

I can buy that when they DID gather together, they put on their “Sunday go to meeting” garb. I mean, when they partied, they dressed for it. I’m betting life was hard and boring. If I’d lived then, I’d have put on the good clothes and then… insured everyone saw me. (I’m funny like that.) The rest of the time, they wore simple clothes tailored for farm and field work. Modest clothes. You know, no exposed ankles or boobage. That’s witch stuff. More about that later. 🙂

No, Virginia, contrary to what they taught you at Berkeley, they didn’t wear tie dye or flipflops. That kinda behavior would get you branded as a witch and then… they’d BBQ your butt in the middle of town.  Hey, some people will do anything to build a fire to huddle around… and then eat a free meal after… especially when food is scarce and the weather is in the teen’s. LOL!

No, they probably didn’t wear big shiny buckles like you see on TV. According to historical archives, they didn’t even HAVE them. We’re told that those big buckles probably came about 100 years later, arriving in the boats filled will new colonists. Fashion moved slowly in those days.

Good thing that TV moves faster or we’d never have known about these trend-setters… 😉

Pilgrims didn’t eat mashed potatoes. No, the Irish didn’t steal them all! Stop thinking like that. Now those sneaky Germans… they might have stolen them… but… I’m pretty sure that potatoes didn’t grow in that part of the country yet. And, it’s pretty hard to eat something that isn’t there. I learn this lesson every time I go to the pantry in the middle of the night to find a pop tart (Sorry @Lori Shemek) and discover that my little boy has eaten them all.

The Pilgrims did shoot everything out of the sky that they could, but wild turkeys were (and are) pretty smart. Ben Franklin commented on it later when he nominated the wild turkey as our national bird.  So, I’m betting  that the poultry on the table was probably duck and geese. If they’d have landed on the other side, they’d probably have hunted birds too. They’d have probably shot ducks and geese and even eagles… and the occasional Seahawk (because they are slow moving and easy to hit and apparently only do great things about one season every hundred years), only to discover that Seahawks were scrawny and stringy beasts, loud and boisterous, but rarely capable of doing anything that contributes reliably and redundantly to civilized society… @Alan Amend

The Pilgrims prayed, ate, talked, squawked and generally partied like “Pilgrim Rock Stars”. From what history records about the culture of the times, I’m betting it was pretty stodgy, boring stuff. I’m betting that the music sucked, too. 🙂

It was so boring that it didn’t happen much after that. This was either G_d getting bored watching a bunch of black and white clad knuckleheads look down their noses at the locals… or the fact that disease, weather conditions and poverty just killed the repeat performance. It might have been a combination of all of those things. Historical records only record that it didn’t become an annual event until much later.

As colonists came and went, the remembrance of that meal was talked about, discussed, and then carried off with them and eventually it spread all over the US. This leads me to another impression of that first party. Apparently Joe Walsh (or possibly Keith Richards) was at that first party and he/they raised hell. I mean, how else would anyone remember it for a decade after?

Hey, it could have happened. Have you SEEN Keith Richards? He could be 400 years old, easy.

Thanksgiving was an opportunity to put away food rationing, food planning and resource coveting. It was a chance to just put it out there on the table for everyone else to see.

“My table is bigger than YOUR table…”

That was important back then. Women didn’t look for guys with big hands or big feet… they looked for BIG tables.

Thanksgiving was a way of building morale. “See, we worked our butts off and we’re gonna make it through another winter. Hell honey, your mother will probably make it through winter… mumble, grumble snort…” They were thankful for all the work they’d accomplished. They were thankful that they had all their poop in a group and they didn’t have to be afraid of winter. They were thankful for those who had survived all the hard work.

They were probably thankful that their kids weren’t being raised by “Spongebob Squarepants” or “Dr McStuffin”…

As you sit down at that table today, thinking about the football that you’ll be watching while inhaling pumpkin pie later (after you arm-wrestle your M-I-L for the big slice)…

Pumpkin PIe

… think about what you’re really thankful for.

What are you thankful for – that you’ll still have tomorrow, or next month or next year?

Will you still have food in your pantry?

Will you still have meat in your freezer?

Will your family be warm, dry, well nourished and well slept?

Will your family still have a roof over their heads?

Many families next month, next year… won’t have any of those things. Many families don’t have that NOW.

As you think about giving thanks, please remember how much you really have to be thankful for.

Wherever you are today, whatever you’re doing, whoever you are with… give them a big hug and remind them just how thankful you are that they are there with you. In the blink of an eye – all of that can change.  Please, as you travel, be safe and spread the love. A little love goes a long way. Love builds bridges that last a lifetime. Build some bridges with your family. Let them remember this day and then carry it forward. It’ll give them a gift they’ll be thankful for, for a long, long time.

We’re spending the rest of this year focusing efforts to insure that families in the Philippines (and other places hard hit) have things to be thankful for too. We’ve decided that money we would have spent on the holidays will be used instead to help with emergency relief operations in the Philippines.

If you want to help, if you want to aid other families in need, if you want to help families become reunited with  those they were separated from in the typhoon… if you have a few bucks to spare to insure that other families in harm’s way are warm, fed and tended to, cared for by first responders and volunteers who gave up time with their own families because other families need them so much more… we’d love to hear from you.

There is so much to do and so little time.

If you want to help us help others during this holiday season, you can PayPal a donation (every single penny helps and will go straight to providing aid to the victims of Haiyan)  to our PayPal ID:

If you’re a manufacture or distributor of gear that can be used by rescue workers and first responders and you want to help, PLEASE email us at: and put “Haiyan Relief” in the subject line.

If you’re a firefighter, an EMT, a Paramedic, a Doctor or a Nurse that wants to spend some time over the holidays helping those in desperate need, please contact us at: and put “Rescue Workers” in the subject line.

Have a happy holidays, folks. I’m signing off and heading to bed for a few hours. I’ve been up all night monitoring Philippine Emergency Relief Op chatter on the HAM radio.

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You’re making me SICK.

8 Oct

Flooding in Colorado. Tornadoes in Nebraska. Loitering in Montana. What do they all have in common?

In each of these places, you can be exposed to things you don’t want.

Most of us hear “Salmonella” and either think of bad food… or a really bad horror movie on cable.

But did you know that Salmonella is contagious?

Yes, Virginia…  Salmonella infection is indeed contagious. Like any other bacteria based infection, you have to be careful to avoid spreading that nasty bacteria to other people. Did you know that there are over 2,400 different kinds of Salmonella bacteria?

The symptoms are a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Crankiness and a lack of sleep follows, as well as scowling from family members you’re  being crabby to. At least that’s how it works in MY house.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control, which I think is still in SHUTDOWN due to those Congressional buffoons that can’t play nice together) says;

“People who are more likely to become ill from Salmonella include:

  •     young children and infants (their developing immune systems have a harder time fighting off the infection)    older people
  •     those with weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV and those with sickle cell anemia)
  •     people who take cancer drugs
  •     people who take antacids or stomach acid suppression medication

Preventive methods are especially important when preparing food or providing care for infants, older adults and people with compromised immune systems. Be sure to cook food thoroughly and refrigerate or freeze food promptly.”

Rule Number One:

Wash your danged hands!

Even if your hands ain’t “danged”, wash ’em anyway.

Washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the transfer of salmonella bacteria to your mouth or to any food you’re preparing. Use anti-bacterial soap and wash your hands thoroughly for at least a minute under warm water.

You remember what your mom told you, right? You should always wash your hands after you do any of the following:

  •     Use the toilet
  •     Change a diaper
  •     Handle raw meat or poultry
  •     Clean up after your pet
  •     Touch reptiles or birds

Remember, some foods are “anti-social”. Just like you have to keep weird Uncle Jeffrey away from Aunt Gladys, you have to keep some things separate to keep things from getting out of control.

Proteins like raw meat, fish (and seafood in general) and poultry should always be stored away from other food items. Additionally, you should have a cutting board in your kitchen dedicated to those foods. You don’t want to prepare veggies on a cutting board that had meat on it previously.

Don’t contaminate prepared (cooked) foods by placing it directly onto surfaces that were used to prepare raw meats.

Don’t eat RAW eggs. No matter what you see on TV eating raw eggs is risky. Even the SHELLS can carry the bacteria.

We all sneak off a big pinch of stuff like cookie dough and homemade ice creams. Don’t do it. They contain raw eggs and raw eggs are a leading source of salmonella.

You want diarrhea and cramps? Raw cookie dough will do it.

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration — and diarrhea caused by Salmonella can be quite severe, you need to start hydrating yourself. You should drink plenty of water or drinks that contain electrolytes (you an find these sports drinks at your supermarket).

Lot’s of people with Salmonella reach for the anti-diarrheal medicines in their bathroom medicine cabinets, but it’s not a good idea for people with salmonellosis. These anti-diarrheals can actually make the infection last longer. Check with your doctor or nurse practitioner first, okay? If you have a fever, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce your temperature, but only IF your consulted medical professional says it’s the right treatment.

Let’s be careful out there…

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What do wildfires look like?

3 Sep


HELL. A wildfire looks like Hell.

Our hearts and prayers go out to all those brave men and women who are standing the lines now, confronting their own demons as they look into the jaws of hell, trying to aid others.

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Moore, OK – Update

20 May

As many of you know;

An F5 tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma today leaving death and devastation in its path.

Moore OK3

Many people were injured and from what we know so far, at least 51 are confirmed killed, including MANY elementary school aged  children. The first responders are desperately digging through the rubble trying to find survivors as well as those who have unfortunately perished.

Moore OK2

The Corten Cavalry is already enroute with emergency supplies, ISBU based canteens and ISBU bath/shower/laundry facilities.

Severe Weather

PLEASE remember the families of Moore, OK in your prayers and do what you can to assist if you are able. There are many, many long days and nights ahead of us and the grief to those families effected will be lifelong.

Stay tuned…

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Bad News for Bears

14 Apr

It’s “Springtime”.

Okay, maybe not HERE, but elsewhere, I’ve heard rumors of Spring.

Montana Spring

In places were Spring really exists…

That means that all those critters are gonna start making appearances in your neighborhood, looking for food and frolic.

Lots of families are out scouting locations for their new ISBU home in the woods. That’s a great way to spend time with the family, learn about your surroundings and then find that “perfect place” to drop your boxes.

Here in Montana, we’re seeing more and more bears every year. We have grizzlies in Missoula County. While little bears look cute and cuddly, their parents are anything but. They’re serious thousand pound hunks of “Bite-yer-butt-off”.


You need to stay clear of them, unless you’re either crazy, or Chuck Norris.

Ten Ways to Avoid Bears While Camping

(Baselines swiped from the Boy Scouts. I just added my two cents worth.)

If you are traveling through bear country, you can follow these ten ways to avoid bears:

  1. Move food away from where you sleep! Keep your cooking areas and sleeping areas separate (100 yards or so is the rule of thumb). Ain’t it bad enough that your “better half” sounds like a bear when she sleeps? You wanna tempt the real thing? I didn’t think so.
  2. Find a tree and a rope… and then use the limbs. No! Don’t hang the neighbor kid who won’t shut up or gather firewood. Hang food and items with strong odors (ie, toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 10 ft above the ground or use airtight, bear-proof containers.
  3. Just like home, change your clothes before you sleep. Nobody wants to sleep with you when you’re covered in mud and fire-stink. Don’t wear clothing with cooking or food odors to bed. Trust me.
  4. “Cleanliness is close to your alleged better half not griping at you for hours and hours…” Be clean –  wash dishes, and keep people in the cooking area well away from the sleeping area…
  5. Life on the trail is loud and boisterous… unless you’re hunting or stalking prey (or pretty girls from the camp across the lake!). Don’t surprise bears while hiking. Make some noise! Talk, sing or shout back and forth,  especially when close to rivers or streams. Remember that water sounds will drown out a lot. Don’t let the sounds of a rushing river mask your approach.
  6. Stay off the “rough bits”. Nobody is impressed at your alleged ability to get scoured by branches and brambles on those goat paths you’re pointing out. Travel on the established trails like normal folk.
  7. More is better. Duh. We all know this. Travel in a group of three or more. That way, if you do irritate a bear into pouncing, you can trip the slowest one as you run away! This, campers, is why I always go camping with my idiot brother-in-law. You need to plan ahead for some things… LOL!
  8. If you’re moving from camp to camp or just traveling through… travel during the daylight hours. Nobody cares if you have “acute night vision”. Nobody cares that you spent all your lunch money on Ebay buying Russian Night Optics. Bears are active at dawn and dusk and they don’t like surprises. And they don’t care what language is embossed on the headgear you’re wearing. They’ll still eat you.
  9. Keep your eyes open. Concentrate on the trail and your surroundings and not the rear end of the girl in front of you. Look for tracks, scat (poop, NOT music) and signs of bear activity.
  10. Boy Scouts are trained to “Be prepared”! Endeavor to do likewise. Study the facts and train your group before you go. Better yet, take a boy scout with you! Find one of those “know-it-all” kids and then insure he’s close enough to trip when the bear starts to charge! Hey, he’s young. He has a much better chance of evading that bear than you probably do. 🙂

Like many hikers, I’ve seen really big grizzly bears in places like the Alaskan wilds and in Montana.  As a kid, we lost fish regularly to bears who thought we were surf fishing in Alaska just to feed them. Bears are pretty awesome, but they are best observed from a great distance. Mom wasn’t so awesome as we had to go back to camp and admit that bears ate our dinner.  Nothing sucks as much as “Here’s your $&^%#@!! supper” as your mother throws a cold can of pork and beans at you. 😦

You’re not going to just walk up on a bear every day. Those bears easily approached are BAD NEWS. They’re either already used to people (and thus you’re just a slow-moving “bear sized MRE”) or they are sick. In both cases, you should carry your butt outta there ASAP. Spotting or encountering a bear in the wild is uncommon, bear attacks are rare and injuries or fatalities from attacks are even rarer still. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

You should also know that most bear attacks are usually attributed to people making stupid mistakes, rather than finding bears that are “inherently aggressive”. Despite that knucklehead that had a cable show about living with bears and treating them like people… bears are bears. They walk like bears, they act like bears and they’ll KILL you like bears. They’ll kill YOU just like they killed that idiot who thought they were “warm, cuddly bundles of awesome fur” that needed to be played with.  Bears won’t see you as a new playmate. They’ll see you as FOOD. That idiot got what he deserved. I just feel sorry for the bears that he got killed because they were then punished for acting like bears.

You’re in THEIR land. Respect for your location and it’s conditions is imperative to your survival. To do anything less invites disaster.

Have a great time. Just stay alert and informed. You’ll have a great time and you won’t become Purina Bear Chow. 🙂

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Ronin Blasphemes! Film at 11pm!

7 Jan

As children, most of us were taught;

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Now, God was a smart guy. He knew that He wouldn’t be the only guy hovering over the water and He knew the treacheries of “Wind and Sea”… so he created a manner of conveyance that would insure man’s future.

The reasons for this were legion. We can only presume that He knew, in His infinite wisdom, that man would require safety and shelter and LCD TVs from Walmart, shipped from far off ports in yet undiscovered places like Mainland China and India.

So, He said to Himself;

“Self…  before I task man with the loss of a rib so that he may find respite on the Barkalounger nursing a  sore chest, as the fruit of his now incomplete ribcage reminds him that he needs to take out the garbage… I must provide a manner by which man can survive all perils.”

And thus, earplugs were born…

Nah, not really. It was then that God provided the FIRST ARK…

… built out of…

…. you guessed it…

Shipping Containers.


Okay, really not really, but I had you going, right? 🙂

(Man, I can hear John Umland wailing from here… “What? Ronin, I shalt smite thee like a heathen!”)

It’s hard for me to believe that so much of  my life has been dedicated to these large steel boxes and that from them rise family-borne dreams, happiness and joy that will survive for generations…

2012 was a year of exploration, claim-staking, heart ache (literally)  and dream fulfillment. 

It was a year of challenges as we began to lay the foundations for families yet to come, a year of progress and even obstacles…

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

… as we were forced to cope with Mother Nature, personal issues and health challenges.  Many of you know that at year’s end, I had health challenges of my own. We’re resolving those issues now, as life begins teaching me new ways to solve old problems… like delegation of authority and diversification.

While the blossom of 2013 blooms, we shall see if you really can teach old dogs new tricks.

As we begin a new year…

Many readers know that last year I moved my family to the “Wilds of Montana”…

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t rush to the boonies because I thought Mayans were “dialed in” and that the world was indeed coming to an end…


I moved here because I wanted peace and solitude, clean air and clear water,  and to be surrounded by nature…

I wanted a new dog… a BIG dog… He don’t bark or bite, but he’ll sure ram the hell out of you… I guarantee… :)


I grew tired of traffic congestion, subdivisions and quite frankly, poverty. Big cities are no longer the melting pots of “commerce and wealth” that we remember from our youths… they are now “deeply divided dominions”, hotbeds of haves and have-nots, jostling and even jousting for control of whatever assets may be within reach.

When most people think of “subdivisions”, they see miles and miles of identical houses, governed by heavy-handed HOA poltroons armed with ruler and  citation lest your grass be “just a smidge too tall”, pigeonholed into every concrete nook and cranny of the city, like sardines packed in mineral oil;

Whew! Try saying all that in one breath!


That’s not a Montana sub-division, I can assure you… THIS is my idea of a “Montana sub-division”…

Forest Subdivision

Folks who read the blog know that we “migrated” to Montana from Mississippi. After Hurricane Katrina, we gave “aid and comfort” to those we could reach. We ran a food bank off our front porch. We helped those who needed help and along the ay, we learned that age old lesson once again;

You can grant aid… or you can help. There is a profound difference between the two.

Our goal was to help those in need to learn to help themselves. In some cases, it worked splendidly and we saw our aid magnified as these individuals and families then were empowered to help others… Alas, they were the minority.

There are some people that you cannot help. In return, these families reminded us that we were there “to aid them so that they didn’t have to help themselves”.

We saw this more and more, until… the fire just burned us out.

My mother always accused me of having a “Messiah Complex”. I admit it, I bring home strays. It drives my family crazy. But, I have one rule;

“If you are in need… I will help you as much as I am able.  But, if you then refuse to help yourself? I will kick you to the curb faster than you can say “ex-girlfriend”. I may suffer heartache (and even heartbreak) from it, but I will do it.”

We considered our plight carefully. We sought the counsel of those we respected and we worked toward our new goal – to find our own personal freedom.

To those who showed us the new road, (you know who you are), we are thankful beyond measure. The “gift that was given” was priceless… they showed us the door… to our 0wn freedom.

So, we hitched our wagon (in the guise of a U-Haul trailer)  to the stars and headed for a place where you could look up in the sky and actually see them.

We did it for a myriad of reasons, most of which revolved around getting to a place where life could be lived sustainably, responsibly and (gasp!) modestly, while providing all the elements required to provide happiness.

Readers of my blog(s) know that I preach the “Three R’s” – Reusing, repurposing and recycling.

sandwichWe teach families to build, by reaching up into the sky… wait… that’s not it… it’s just lunch… but  it probably explains my chest pains…

We repurpose old shipping containers into homes…

We reuse rain gutter, turning it into wall mounted gardens.

We recycle PVC Pipe, transforming it into “edible fencing”.

herb ladder
and we’ll even reuse old ladders… just like this guy did…

Wait… that’s “ladder framing”… never mind. 🙂

As we lead families forward, trying to honor those who invested in us by returning that gift that we were so graciously given to others… we remind them that there are useful things all around you that can be incorporated into elements vital to the fulfillment of your dreams.

Dreams given back to each of us, usually by a handful of people that cared that we succeeded above all else. It gives us hope to know that there are still those who think beyond their own walls… as they reach over their fences to help their neighbors.

It is because of them that we are achieving our goals.

We wish that for you!

May the New Year bring you joy, happiness and… success… beyond measure.

To those of you who have sent emails asking about my condition; I’ll be taking the next several weeks slowly, trying to rebuild and regain my health after recent events. After that, I assure you that we’ll be roaring out into Spring… like a kid tearing gleefully through a “Happy Meal”…

Be nice to yourselves… and your neighbors.

The Renaissance Ronin

It’s time for that annual – Christmas Recycling :)

27 Dec

It’s that time again

Okay, so you didn’t burn your house down as you lit up that tree in the corner of your living room until it resembled a nuclear reactor.

But, now that St. Nick has come and gone (thank the heaven’s… I’m not sure we could have survived one more day of that), it’s time to start thinking about WHO you’re gonna talk into hauling the evidence out and cleaning up the mess…

Now here at RR, we’re all about “recycling, repurposing and reusing”…

While many of us sprung for that “plant it somewhere in the yard later” version of the Yuletide lumber yard…

Statistically, most of us bought “farmed trees”… (enterprising souls among us filled that empty cavity in our celebration by obtaining trees that we bought a “self-harvest permit” for, usually from some secluded spot just out of the sight line in the nosy neighbor next door’s yard)…

Wait! That’s not it… 🙂

We drove way out into the forest, through the snow and mud and potholes…  and then argued, negotiated and listened somewhat attentively as some whined… until just the right tree was selected, inspected and then… hacked free from Mother Earth…

(Okay, around here, we just tuned out the wailing and then murdered the closest tree to the truck…)

This usually involves one person finger-pointing, changing their minds 862 times and then… someone else doing some finger-pointing of their own (usually with their middle finger) and then doing all the heavy lifting and chainsaw juggling…

However it happens, most of you get an organic (REAL) tree stuffed through your front door and then onto a prominent place in your living room, so that you can decorate it and shame the neighbors with your “Christmas Celebration Creation”.

And then. it happens…

Someone decides that they need that corner of the room back and that darned tree has to go…

And guess who gets stuck with that task? Yep. The same sorry SOB that was forced to give up a day in his warm, insulated garage blissfully  organizing tools or playing with a new Harley part or tinkering happily away at the workbench as Joe Walsh tortures a piece of ash in the background… only to find himself spending the entire day listening to his “alleged better half” recant stories of how “the tree we got last year was better…” while you contemplate pulling over and freeing up space in the interior of your truck by tossing a certain someone into a snowbank…

But, I’m not bitter… 😉

So, once you get tired of listening to all the nagging, you’re faced with two tasks.

The first task is stripping the trees of all the flotsam and jetsam the kid carefully threw onto it, WHILE the kid is howling like a scalded cat because you’ve dared touch “His Tree”.

Eventually, you give in, stop threatening him and put him now for a nap, lulled into slumber with tales of little kids waking up stone cold dead in the morning if they don’t stop causing trouble for their parents… 😉

The second task, once the kid is in bed and out from under the tree, doing everything but chaining himself to it so that you can’t remove it… is figuring out what you’re  going to do with the dead, tormented, relic of Mother nature’s beauty and grace that you’ve turned into a quickly browning, needle shedding, “Master of disaster”…

It’s at this point that you need to start thinking about those “next” steps.

I mean, the poor thing gave up it’s life to give you a small (and I’m talking about a 5 year old sized) package of joy. The least you can do is honor it’s sacrifice by doing something with the tree that is “useful”… in the grand scheme of things.

When I was a kid… we gathered up every tree in the neighborhood and then carted them down to the local lake. There, they were twined together and thrown haphazardly onto floating barges, so we could tow them out into the lake and “bury them at sea” complete with fifes and salutes… so that they could become shelter for the fish. This insured that (a) they were “out of sight and out of mind, and (b) that come summer, we’d have plenty of new fish to catch, all the while insuring that our parents got some much needed peace and quiet by “allowing us to go fishing…” some place beyond their hearing. 🙂


The Forestry guys do it now…

When we got a little bit older, we realized that we lived in a land surrounded by golf courses, HOAs and old folks that used their front yards to generate status.


We started collecting those trees so that we could stuff them into a chipper that my Dad “borrowed” from the Marine Base (usually during a period of darkness) and we caught the “output” in “SuperSacks” for resale to the locals who had provided us with the mulching material in the first place.

Okay, we charged them $2 for “tree removal” by hauling the trees off… usually by dragging them down the street behind our Sting-Ray bicycles.

Then, we ground them up into mulch and piled the “organic mulch” into wagons (again dragged down the street via left-over candy cane fueled kid power ala Sting-Ray… to sell the “mulching material back to neighbors, for $2 a wagon load.

For another $2, we’d scatter it willy-nilly into their shrubs, to “beautify and protect their landscaping. We reminded them along the way that mulching was not only good for the plants, it helped conserve water. And since we were in a drought period where watering your lawn was a big “no-no”… the pitch ran rather well…

By the end of the first week of New Years, we had cold hard cash… which we planned to use for Rock’N’Roll music albums (which we would hide from the discerning eyes and ears of our parents) , guitar picks, bicycle upgrades and candy…

It never worked out that way. What happened is that mom reminded us that if we wanted to continue doing things like “eating”… we all had to pitch in.  (sigh!)

So, the realities of being a “military family” ground their jackboots into our entrepreneurial dreams… but we sure ate good for a few weeks after that. 🙂

Okay, fast forward 40 years…


Local landscaping companies now drive up and down the block, collecting “dead trees” in big stakebed trailers, so that they can crush the dreams of enterprising kids… um… er…. grind them into mulch themselves, thus getting “Free” mulch to flagrantly resale to all their clients as “Organic goodness”.

This while kids everywhere line the streets in sadness, saluting those trees as they are carted down the street… like John Kennedy’s riderless horse during that hallowed funeral procession.

A word of warning;

Pine needles are acidic. That means that if you mulch them onto the wrong plants, you’re going to harm your shrubbery. Around here, we use pine needle mulch at the base of blueberries. The neighbor ladies who have been here for generations use them to perk up and protect their gardenias and periwinkles.

This “tree mulch” also works great as “winter cover” for areas where you get snow. Around here (there are several feet of snow on the ground as I type this) a thick coating of “Christmas Tree Mulch” is just the ticket to protect your plants  and shrubs from the cruel bite of winter. And as that mulch breaks down and turns into compost, it’s going to add some tasty soil improvement goodness to that soil!

But, you don’t have to have a chipper to get some benefit from those trees in the “snow zones”.

Here in Montana, we sometimes use those dead Christmas trees (left intact) to create “snow drift hedges”… big berms created to keep snow from blowing into the front yard.

After winter passes, we simply retrieve those tree carcasses and then use them for bonfire firewood.

But wait… there’s more;

Nowadays, there are a minions among us that use these “Christmas Corpses” for “Frankenstein” inspired purposes.

“It’s alive… It’s alive! Wait… not it’s not! We need to harvest it’s organs! Quick, get me my sap extractor!”

Pine sap (that stuff that bled out of the trunk all over the top of your truck and then again all over your carpet) has medicinal properties. In fact, it’s anti-bacterial. You can use the stuff just like honey (the Greeks and Romans had this down to an artform), to close up wounds. You know… wounds like chainsaw “slip-ups” and twine abrasions… or the ones you get above your eye after ignoring the wife’s ranting for a while… ranting usually targeted at chores you were supposed to do before Christmas but never got around to…  Talk about heated encounters…

Speaking of “things incendiary” – pine sap also makes a great firestarter.

But, you don’t need to “harvest sap” to get the benefits of the pine…

You know, I remember the days when we talked lovingly about the “benefits of the pine”…

It used to have a direct connection to baseball and Spring… Now… it’s found it’s evil way into conversations about sap. Can you imagine that next beer fueled discourse at the local Sports Pub?

“What did you do this weekend?”

“Well, I harvested some sap…”

“Whaaaaaa? Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?” 🙂

No. Not going there. Not gonna do it.

Did you know that if you bundle pine tree branches together, they make dandy torches? I mean, if they were good enough for unruly mobs brandishing fire and pitchforks, they ought to be good enough for you!  We bundle them together tightly using baling wire. Then, you  shove the “bitter end” into the ground and set them ablaze… to make some “pine powered tiki lamps” for those backyard parties…

Around here, the locals use those pine needles to make a concoction that they call “Christmas Cider”… using the pine needles to make “tea”. We’ve already established that pine needles are “anti-bacterial”. So, using that logic, thee are those who take that Olympian leap… and then consume it.

Now, chewing pine needles is a task best left to beavers and ground squirrels, if you ask me. But fear not… you can indeed get the benefits by drinking the stuff.

Grab an old cup (one that you won’t mind hurling away in disgust later….) and then grab about a dozen green pine needles. Combine needles in the cup. Add about 1 and a half cups of boiling water and then steep the needles for about 10 minutes.

In my experience (we field test everything around here) if you’re a “smart pig” you’ll add a significant amount of honey to the brew about halfway through. Trust me, this “tea” is an acquired taste.

After about ten minutes, extract the needles and then drink away…

The claims are that this brew rivals good Single Malt Scotch for soothing the ravages of cold air and sore throats…

… but frankly, I’m thinking that anyone who compares “pine needle tea” to good Scotch must be buying their Scotch at a steep discount from non-English speaking liquidators out of the back of a battered old van at the flea market.

The abuse of  pine needles continues.

Some miscreants among us actually grind up the wood and pine cones to use as thickeners for cooking. They liken this to other store-bought thickeners used in flour and corn starch concoctions. They’ll tell you that the inner bark of pine trees is nutritious, tasty and chock full of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. They’ll also tell you that their ancestors, sailing the plains in Conestoga wagons, relied on this as emergency and survival resources.

Us? Well, frankly, we’re not really interested in sorting trees into piles labeled “Pine” Spruce” or “Fir” in order to determine which ones can be mulched, burned (we prefer bonfires to using them in wood stoves or fireplaces), eaten (gasp!) or turned into a toasty warm concoction that tastes like gasoline (grimace!)…

… we have a wood chipper and we ain’t scared of it.

We’ll chop up those trees until they resemble the output of one of those late night infomercial Ronco Chop-O-Matics… and then we’ll let the kids toss them under the trees and shrubs.

And if your kids can beat the landscapers to the neighbors houses…. they can turn those trees into cash… or even forts… many a kid has ‘nearly lost an eye” in pine cone wars while “hunkered down behind all those dead soldiers”…

We used to shoot ’em out of slingshots made from surgical tubing and the bottoms of old bleach containers.

Remember that the ammo contains the cure… you can close the war wounds with the sap…

Now that is some “Christmas Goodness”, there, boy… 🙂

The Renaissance Ronin

It is with GREAT SADNESS that I report…

14 Dec

As  I write this, thru a veil a tears,  my wife is crying as she shares in my sadness…

Today, evil invaded a small Connecticut town.  Tragedy has struck Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, a school located in a prosperous community of about 27,000 people located approximately 60 miles northeast of New York City.


A 20 year old man, described as suffering from a personality disorder, walked into an elementary school and opened fire, murdering 20 children  and 6 adults including his own mother, after having murdered another person at another location.


He then killed himself.

Like many, here at RR our hearts are broken at the senseless loss of so many lives.  The majority of the victims were young,beautiful, vibrant children full of hope and dreams of Santa’s impending visit.

It is of little solace right now that they now rest tenderly, safely… in the hands of G_d.

Our broken hearts, our thoughts and prayers are with those families facing this terrible, devastating event. To those caught in the clutches of this maelstrom of horror and heartbreak, our sorrow for what you are going through is without measure.

People ask me WHY so many families are moving into rural areas, to build safe, secure homes to protect their families. THIS is why.

There are MONSTERS among us.

I’m not going to say anything more. It’s said by some that “this old jarhead” is solid as a rock. But today… I just can’t stop crying at this senseless tragedy…

Please, please… go hug your children as tight as you can. And… please… remember these grieving families in your prayers. To those of us, especially those with children of our own, their pain and anguish is OUR pain and anguish as well.


Image Credits: AP