Tag Archives: family

4 Skills to Perfect in Fort Backyard

So you’ve been reading our articles, went to one of our camps, or maybe just looking for something fun to do with the family. Here are four skills you can perfect in your back yard before you have to use them for real.

Fire Craft

The single greatest skill for both confidence and usefulness is mastering fire craft. But don’t play with matches; work on two paths of mastery. The first is using a sparking device like the Light My Fire from Industrial Revolution. The second is learning a primitive technique such as the bow-drill.612

Once you begin to master- push yourselves to experiment with various tools and harder conditions. A great activity for gaining experience is to tie natural fiber rope to two stakes or rods in the ground about 18 inches high and time yourselves on how long it takes to bundle materials, get a flame, and then burn the rope down.

The ability to start a fire is key to staying alive in the wilderness. This means fire starting is a priority in the list of bushcraft skills.

Some residential zones may restrict fire to specified enclosures. If restricted then use a homemade or purchased fire-pit for containment. We built a pit using 8”x12”concreate pavers to create a pit to practice in.

Gimme’ Shelter

Many backyards don’t have ready-sized trees to practice with. Still, there are many things you can do to create shelter. You can use t-post stakes purchased from local farm and feed stores to create anchor points that simulate trees and common tent stakes to represent natural wood stakes you would normally make in the back country. Just know where water, electric, and sprinkler lines lay.

Experiment with tarps, ponchos, and even a few discarded pieces of lumber. You kids will love that you are building a fort with them.

Learn a few knots, get some decent 550- cord and get to it!

Wood Splitting- Knife Skills

608Wood splitting with a survival knife- also known as batoning can add a valuable wilderness survival skill to your toolbox. This is useful because it helps you in creating smaller- easier to ignite pieces of wood even when the wood is wet. Learn with a full blade survival knife and work your way to using a small axe or hatchet.

Bushcraft Cooking

You’re getting the hang of fire building so might as well use it to try your cooking over an open fire. You can choose to use a grate in the beginning- but move yourself into experimenting with cooking with Dutch Ovens, #10 cans, and wooden spits.

Try making a “survival stew (anything you find in the fridge) in a coffee can or pick up a Cornish hen and cook it over open coals. Be sure to follow all safe food handling protocols- and it’s okay to use a meat thermometer to help you learn.

We still use Fort Backyard to master skills, and these four will get you on a path to perfecting skills before you have to use them.

Nothing Routine

Another kid is out there this morning. Somewhere possibly worried. Possibly hurt. God forbid, dead.

I am amazed when I walk into a room and whether its a bow-hunting club or a troop full of Eagle Scouts, how there are so many survival “experts”. I am equally blown away by the idea that a weekend camping trip or day trip to the woods is somehow safe. In addition, how the four letters P.A.R.K. some how makes a trip so innocent.

The facts are simple people. We are not at the top of the food chain when we go outside. The lives we lead, sitting with our @$$3$ on a couch playing video games, watching the latest episode of “Naked and Afraid”, or browsing the fridge for our next meal does nothing to get us ready for when things go wrong. Even worse, the self-proclaimed “experts” (atv guys, hunters, hikers, etc.) are more likely to wind up in a body bag or as a minimum, a SAR statistic because they first of all, have increased risk due to exposure, and second have developed a huge ego. Sorry guys, the numbers speak for themselves.

In cases involving kids who get lost or are in a survival situation, they are more likely to rely on training they have BEEN AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN. This is why all of our workshops require hands-on training. We have documented cases where kids we have trained have used our information in real-life scenarios and not only waited out the situation until rescue, were able to provide a calming impact on adults.

It is simple people. We not only need basic instruction in the outdoor survival disciplines, but an on-going diet of training and practical simulations.

See the article that prompted this quick write-up

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Authorities-seek-teen-missing-after-camping-trip-5603681.php

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Day Seven….Heading in to Olympia

Day Seven….hard to believe we have been on the road for a week. Having the ability to sleep in on Lopez Island and use it as a base was a good option. The island is very friendly and a far cry from the hustle and bustle of San Juan Island. It was also great to let my guard down and not worry about bears for a change on this trip. Instead there is an infestation of rabbits.

I really want to understand more about how this place has become a safe haven for the bunny population. Its seems there are no natural predators, never saw a single sign of coyote, fox, or even feral cat. Hawks and eagles were spotted, but not in enough numbers to diminish the population.

We did venture to San Juan island for a few hours. To ferry the Jeep over it cost about $24 for a round trip ticket. Once on the ground we decided to find sea food. With limited parking, dogs in tow, and a tight budget, finding a spot was difficult. We eventually wound up at a grill on the main drag. We picked up an order of crab sliders, beef sliders, and some sweet potato frys. The tab still came in around $40, but it made the wife happy….so I was happy.

We cruised around to the state park area to do whale watching. We had to buy a discovery pass, which is required for all Washington parks. A trip to the gift shop and $30 later we had a pass for the year, we will never use again. Glad I could chip in….

We saw a few porpoises but no whales. Still a good trip. We headed back to the docks, parked the rig in line, then used the two hours to walk around with my wife.

In our early dating life, we often hung out in harbor and inlet towns. Often she would tag-along when I was doing a class or working a wreck. After long hours of working a dive, I would decompress with her walking allot of the shops in places like Barnagate, Strathmere, and Long Beach Island. It was good to shop with her again. I even got real seafood. While she watched a glass artist, I scored BBQ clams. I slurped down two baseball-sized crustaceans while she looked on in horror.

Today it was on to Olympia to see Melissa’s cousin. This put us on the only interstate we have done on this trip (except 95….but its a two-lane road anyway). Going through Seattle was a nightmare. I was pretty shaken by the time we checked into a cheap motel for showers and down time.

At Kelly’s the pups had an opportunity to run free. Kelly has three young women who rent rooms, all highly intellectual and very conversational. We talked travel, lifestyle, education, environmental issues, and raising meat rabbits, etc.

More later….time to crash…..
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Day Two…. Clearwater National Forest to Glacier National Park

Day two of our trip and things are going well. Ok… I got a little cranky…Ok…really cranky. I find if I have too much windshield time I am done for the day once we hit a camp site. My inner introvert comes out and I need to recharge by myself. I wasn’t getting it. I was feeling like a hired guide at one point and leading a team of rookies in the outdoors. Of course this wasn’t the case and after everyone was off and in slumber-land, I had some time to journal, read, and get a few hours of undisturbed sleep….like three of them.

The morning started off really well. After navigating our way back on to the main road (HWY 12) we made a few stops to reconnect. The first was breakfast at a quiet overlook on the Lochsa River. The second was in a prepared, yet reclusive park-and-walk area, the Bernard Devoto scenic walk. Here we found an area passed up by many, and for us, it was a peaceful place we could laugh and joke as a family.

We hit rain about an hour before Lolo, so we delayed pulling off the top until the sun came out. We also dodge a few Deer on the pass, and almost had one for a hood ornament. We missed her by only a foot or two. Any delay and our trip would have had another kind of excitement.

A few hours after crossing into Montana, we made our way up towards Kalispell along HWY 93. We went on the east side of a huge lake I don’t recall the name of at the moment, and too tired to walk back to the Jeep to look at the map. There was steady traffic along the lake road, but to my surprise, no one tail-gated or became aggravated with the driver in front. Pretty different as you make your way from Boise to Hailey on HWY 20. People seem to live a bit easier here.

We made a lunch stop along the border of a Bison Range and a bird refuge. Montana has done an awesome job of keeping rest stops and picnic areas attractive and well kept. Melissa made a few bagel sandwiches, I fell asleep with mine on the cool picnic bench.

We have been a bit wishy-washy on visiting Glacier National Park. I didn’t want to have to push hard for anything on this trip. We rolled into the park around four, made camp, and Melissa started dinner. We could probably do an entire blog on just the meals she has created for this trip.

We were probably over-thinking the Glacier part of the trip. Abby is on crutches so she is pretty limited to what she can do on this trip. She is my hard-core hiker so for her to be sequestered to a chair is difficult for here. We are all glad we made the trip in…it is a nice break from the road.

Watching what we leave out tonight. We are in bear country and there have been bears in the campsites this week. It is illegal to shoot one, however- I will go to jail if need be to protect my family if one comes in and is being a pain.

In the morning we’ll do a quick tour of the park, then head for Bonner’s Ferry. I am dropping the girls off at a hotel and heading for Canada. Tonight, we are all sitting by the fire and working on journals. Probably should’t bring out the bongos and djembe….too many close neighbors….

Side note…I have a ton more pictures to post once I hit the hotel in Bonner’s Ferry that are on my ipod—-it doesn’t have a 3G connection….heck I am happy/sad there is a 3G here in Glacier….kind of takes away from the “disconnection” of life….

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His and Hers – A Love Story

This story was originally part of a series I wrote for another blog. Thought I would repost it due to a few questions I have been getting on smaller RC rigs. These little rigs are great to travel with and one of mine has almost frequent flyer mileage as I do.

I have had several Revos, Slashes, Rallys, and combinations, conversions, and off-shoots of these three. But by far the most fun I have had was building these two rigs with my wife.

A few weeks ago she showed an interest in an old buggy. Now she has always loved building and painting but driving was not so fun for her. I took an old slash and put a 23 turn motor in it and placed in training mode. In the privacy of our backyard track she learned to like it. Then last week for the Sweet 16 Rally we held here, we picked up a mini slash for non rc visitors to bash. She fell in love with the car when placed in training mode.

Her rig is stock and has the 12 turn Titan but soon to have a 23 turn HPI. That should give her longer run time and slower speeds

My rig has the Velenion brushless with Traxxas ESC, Traxxas and Integy aluminum, and run it on a Spektrum controller.

On neither rig am I overly concerned with having top shelf race parts, and use trickle down stuff from my prime rig…the Revo.

The Slash takes a lot of lip because of stability. My argument is that if you drive a car within its limits you don’t flip as much. We can go through several battery packs in an evening without ever being on our lids.

I’m enjoying our time in the yard with these rigs. I’m kind of anal about similar rigs running at the same time so its nice we are driving short course rigs at the same time.

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Five Games to Keep You Sane

We have all been on that trip.

A camping trip where it rains the entire weekend and you have hours to spend in a trailer, camper, or tent. The Christmas road trip where you get stuck in a hotel for multiple days because roads and passes are closed. The vacation that has you pent up for hours at an airport due to missed or cancelled flights. I started carrying miniature versions of games with me when I was deploying around the globe in support of my military occupation. They were great for keeping me entertained, and sometimes meeting new people.

When the DS or Gameboy batteries or adventures become stale, the internet has been surfed to its end point, one can’t possibly look at another paragraph in that awesome book bought along, and when the boredom monster strikes, we have an arsenal of games we pull out to keep us connected as a family, occupy time, and combat the temptation to flame each other. These are the five games to keep you sane on a road trip, adventure, or vacation.

Uno
This is an old standby that gets overlooked. Don’t worry about buying the mini-version and if you already have the updated Uno Spin, just ditch the wheel and grab the cards. Probably better known here in the U.S., Uno is card game which is played with a specially printed deck. since 1992. The game is similar to Crazy Eights that my Grandpa Turner would play with me as a kid.

The Uno deck has 112 cards. There are 26 of each color (blue, green, red, yellow) each color having two of each number except 0, and 4 blank cards. The numbers in each color are 0 to 9. There are also cards directing the actions of “Skip”, “Draw Two” and “Reverse” Finally, the deck contains four each of “Wild” and “Wild Draw Four” cards.
It’s a fairly simple game to play and we started Abby on it around when she was 8 or 9 years old.

Zombie Dice
I’m just not into the whole Zombie thing. I don’t have a Zombie bug out bag. My rig doesn’t have anything that is Zombie proof. I don’t even have a Zombie hunting permit. But I do have Zombie Dice!

I like Zombie Dice because it is more than luck, you have to take risk with your luck…probably much like a real zombie apocalypse. Each player on their turn has to shake a cup (we use a Crown Royal bag) containing 13 dice and randomly select 3 of them without looking into the cup/bag and then roll them.

The faces of the dice represent brains, shotgun blasts or “runners”. There are various colors of the dice, green, red, yellow. Each color has a its own distribution of faces, the green dice have 3 brains, 1 shotgun and 2 runners, the yellow dice have 2 of each and the red dice have 1 brain, 3 shotguns and 2 runners.

The object of the game is to roll 13 brains. If a player rolls 3 shotgun blasts their turn ends and they lose the brains they have accumulated so far that turn. A winner is determined if a player rolls 13 brains and all other players have taken at least one more turn without reaching 13 brains.

Story Cubes
I have presented these before in our videos and podcast and have even used them to interrupt writer’s block. The idea is to roll the images on these story cubes to make up your own once-upon-a-time type story. We like this game because even though it is simple, it requires someone to think out of the box and be creative.

There are several variations we use other than one person rolling and telling the whole story, we also will have someone roll, and then each takes a turn in telling the story. I also use this as a tool in my presentation skills workshop when working with a team that is highly technical and very little conceptual in their Emergenetics profile.

Timeline
This is one of our latest editions. I was actually a tester for this at a conference awhile back. I like it because we use it to learn more about historical events, inventions, and other interesting happenings of the past.

With Timeline you have to make decisions if the mouse was invented before or after the laptop computer or did the Crusades happen before or after the Black Plague? This game takes up a bit more space and needs a flat surface.

There are several kits including Inventions, History, and Diversity. We like to mix and match the sets. If you have Internet, keep an iPad or other device close by to look up and learn more about an event or invention.
At the beginning of the game, players all get the same number of cards representing monuments, inventions, etc. On the back of each card is a date.

To begin, one card is randomly drawn from the deck. This card is placed in the middle of the table, date-side up and is the starting point of a chronological line which will slowly be built by the players. The first player then chooses one of their cards (they cannot look at the date).
If the player thinks that the invention on their card came before that of the initial card, the player places their card to the left of the initial card. If they feel that the invention on their card was created after, it is placed to the right of the initial card.

Once placed, the player’s card is then turned date-side up. If the player was right, it remains on the table. Otherwise, the card is discarded and a new one must be drawn to replace it. The first player to get rid of their cards wins.

Flash
Another rookie to our game roster. This is allot like Yatzee, only way cooler and not as time consuming. Flash is a lightning fast dice game. Players work to rack up the most points as they race through 8 dice challenges. Everybody rolls for a specific set chosen and any player could score.

Flash has several game variations you can play. If it’s an adult party, it could easily become a drinking game.

It comes with its own travel pouch which makes it a game on the go.

You Can Help Support Free Survival and Outdoor Training
Every year we provide free survival seminars to kids and adults. This year we will teach close to 1200 individuals how to comeback alive should they find themselves in a backcountry emergency at no charge. Be sure to check out our website for these games and use any of our Amazon links from there to purchase. All your Amazon purchases go for gear we use in our free survival seminars.

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Axial SCX-10 Review

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Most times when traveling for business, I find myself stuck in a town without transportation independence. I have rented bikes, taken taxis and buses, even purchased a moped to get out and see the sights. But for a Jeep guy who is often stuck in a hotel room, well after venturing hours, the immobility is hard to take.

Enter the world of RC cars. I have traveled fairly extensively with my 1/16 scale and 1/38 scale rigs. Taipei, Korea, Shenzhen, and Glasgow have all become speedways and crawling courses for my various rc toys. I have found the best way for me to stay out of the troubles is to have something to keep me entertained. Having small rigs to play in a hotel rock garden or a race at a local hobby store on club night is a great way to pass the monotony of travel.

My newest passion has been he Axial SCX 10 Jeep JK. I wanted to test this rig for several reasons. First is that now we own a new JK, I wanted something to emulate my 1:1 ride. The second, I wanted to review a true crawler. While my 16-scale Summit has been modified to play in a few local parks, noting beats a real scale crawler.

I have also wanted to find a way to get the adventure crew back outside to both the trails as well as our own backyard. I believe strongly that a family that finds common outdoor activities builds up better protective layers when storms arise. Having a soon-to-be middle school daughter, I wanted both solid insulation for the coming foul weather, as well as make opportunities for time together. As for our matriarch, we just need to get her outside in less stressful environments.

For the sake of testing, we went two distinct routes. Melissa’s rig is a “Ready-to Run” SCX 10, meaning you pull it out of the box, put AA batteries into the radio controller and NiMh or LiPo batteries on the rig, and you are ready for fun. Axial makes solid products and they are truly ready for the trails strait off the shelf.

We did a few minor modifications to Melissa’s crawler though. First, we swapped out the 27T motor for a 55T motor. To make it easier to understand, lower turn = higher top end/less torque
and conversely, higher turn = lower top end/more torque. I wanted the ability to help her control her speed since crawling is more finesse that bashing through stuff. One of her frustrations was always wrecking her Traxxas Slash. Even with a slower motor, she was wrecking it.

Moving to a 55-turn motor decreased her speed, and gave her the torque she needed for crawling obstacles. It also eliminated the full speed/ 90 degree turn and flip syndrome as can happen with many high-speed RCs. We also swapped out her controller for a higher grade one from Spektrum. The controller Axial makes is awesome, but I had an opportunity to get her one at a steal so I couldn’t turn it down. The stock Axial is a 2.4 Ghz high quality controller. I resold it within 48 hours.

With my rig, still using the SCX-10 platform, we bought a kit. Even though, I have put a few kits together, based on time available and experience, I decided to let Troy Dewey from Team Dewey Hobbies put mine together. He built a great mini-version of my 1:1 rig. I also put in a 55T motor. With the kilt you need to supply all of your own electronics. If this is your first crawler, I recommend going with the RTR versus a kit, since you will want to be out there playing right away.

Its hard to think of this as a toy at times. You can quickly get sucked into a hobby that no one else understands. The realistic looks and upgrades can quickly turn into an obsession. I hate to think of how many hours I have wasted, errrr…reinvested into thinking of accessories alone.

The SCX-10 has phenomenal handling, and with the differentials locked, can climb more than you would expect. The suspension consists of four oil filled coil-over shocks, with dual spring rates, attached to front and rear four- link suspension. Like its 1:1 counterpart, the spring rate on the RC is preset pretty low, which helps to stabilize it when on the trails or crawling over objects like rocks or wood pallet based obstacles.

The absolute coolest thing about the SCX-10 Wranglers is the ability to upgrade ands add accessories. Like 1:1 Jeeps, a true Jeeper can park next to another Jeeper and the two rigs will be completely different. Performance upgrades such as tires or shocks and scale cosmetics like bikini tops, camping gear, roof, racks and working lights make any rig truly yours as you add custom options. Companies such as Rugged Ridge and Poison Spyder have rallied behind this rig to make scaled replicas of their primary products.