Spring is here, so spring on your bike today!

The weather very definitely plays a big part in my own cycling repertoire.

I know true all-weather cyclists will laugh at me for saying this, but I only really like cycling when the weather is dry….ok, if I’m caught out in the middle of a rainstorm, then there is not choice but to battle on regardless.

Cycling in snow I don’t mind at all, having had years of experience in those weathers when I used to reside in London, UK and Ontario!

But let’s get back to the present. For the past few days, the weather has shown unmistakable signs of warming up, which was my wake-up call to get my ike cleaned up and ready for this year.

I have always been an avid cyclist, and as we speak, I have 5 bikes…yes, that’s the truth!

Three are road bikes, with curled over racing handlebars, one is a hybrid mountain type, and the last one is a full-blown mountain/trail only job.

I always get asked by so many people as to what kind of bike they should buy. In short, it mainly depends on a set of factors, namely how often you will be cycling, what kind of areas will you be using it in, and how much of a budget you have put to one side for it.

If, like many people, you will be using the bike mainly in town, but with occasional forays into hiking trails or rough ground, then I would suggest you go for a hybrid type.

This will be perfect for general around-town use, and will also be capable of handling all but the very serious trails.

Just such a bike is the MEC Midtown bicycle.

It is a home-grown design, so you can be sure that it has kept jobs and resources in Canada rather than overseas. Beginning with its tapered aluminum frame, all th way to the very high quality Shimano 9 speed gear train, this bike is easy to maintain, parts are available very easily, and comes with MEC’s Rocksolid Guarantee and Bike Service Agreement….which is unique as it means you can bring your bike to any MEC Bike Shop for free adjustments and minor maintenance for a year after purchase….isn’t that something? And at just C$500, with a saving of 23% over the regular price, you cannot go far wrong!

See it here….

🙂

 

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Valuable hints for being healthy outdoors people!

I know…everyone who reads this will be saying that this is supposed to be an outdoors blog about outdoors activities, not a health and fitness drop-in center!

And yes, I agree wholeheartedly! It is indeed is an outdoors blog…but..

If we don’t look after our bodies, then we’re going to be in real trouble sooner or later, for sure.

That’s where today’s post comes in…the info I’m posting is not new, but somehow we always always seem to ignore it..me inculded!

It’s a new way of looking at things, at how our diets are capable of switching certain genes, good or bad, on and off, according to what we eat. It’s called Nutri-genomics.

What our diet consists can totally transform our genes, it’s been found, so certain foods will turn the genes into nasty monsters, which enables inflammation, immune system disorders, dementia, diabetes, strokes, cancers and other lifestyle related diseases to obtain a foothold.

So, cut a long story short..what foods should we avoid and which ones do we need to eat? Read on…

EAT

Foods rich in B vitamnins..like dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts, chicken, fish, asparagus, whole grains and fruits…take a and B12 and folic acid supplement.

Eating these daily has shown to switch off genes activated by environmental pollutants such as BPA, which is a hormone disruptor present in plastics and the linings of all those drink cans and coke bottles we use every single day…yikes!

These genes once activated are responsible for miscarriages, childhood obesity, cancers and many more yet undiscovered problems.

Use canola oil, which is rich in long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids which turn off inflammatory genes in fat cells and turn on production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

DONT EAT

Don’t eat too much carbohydrates, as these turn on risky genes. The maximum carbs you should eat should be no more than approx 30% of your diet..and even then these 30% should be whole grains, not processed.

Cut out as much saturated fat as possible…and yes, I know…that means all those yummy cheeses, cookies, pies and stuff! Well, I dunno…what kind  of a life is it where you can’t enjoy a good damn pi once in a while…so use your common sense!

There we have it! A short, sharp guide for healthy living and a long life!

You read it here first…lol!

😉

 

 

 

Trees that can save your life in the wilderness

I have always had a fondness of all kinds of trees, ever since I was a little boy…would you believe me if I told you that I can still recall a time when my father picked me up to show me a big tree…when I asked him about that time, he told me I was about 3 years old…wow…I didn’t know human memories could go back that far!

Anyways, being able to identify trees can not only be a source of pleasure, but a matter of survival. If you become lost in the woods, trees are an abundant and easy-to-utilize resource, and can be used in a variety of ways, including as food, shelter, cordage, and materials for fire-starting and tool-making.

Below we discuss how to identify six trees that are particularly useful in survival scenarios, and the different ways they can be employed to keep you alive. Keep in mind that because many trees drop their leaves in the fall, it’s important to be able to identify them by both their leaves and buds, and their bark.

White Birch (Paper Birch)

birch

White birch is easy to identify with its distinctive, white, papery bark. The sycamore tree also has white bark, but it does not sluff off in thin, paper-like furls like the white birch. The sycamore also has large hand-shaped leaves versus the white birch’s smaller, oval-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. The birch leaf is also irregularly toothed. These grow almost exclusively in northern climates.

birch-leaf

White birch survival uses:

  • Sweet drinkable sap that does not need purification.
  • Containers can be fashioned from the bark (and even canoes – hence the nickname “canoe birch”).
  • Its papery bark makes some of the finest fire-starting tinder on the planet, which will light even when damp because of its resinous quality.
  • A fine tea can be made from the small twigs at the end of a branch or by shaving the bark from new growth. Toss a palmful of these elements into boiling water for a fresh, wintergreen-flavored tea.
  • The tinder fungus (chaga — a variety of mushroom that grows on the tree bark) grows almost exclusively on the white birch tree. The fungus is one of the only natural materials I know of that will take the spark from flint and steel. A piece of tinder fungus along with flint and pyrite to create sparks were even found on Otzi, the “iceman” who was uncovered in the Austrian Alps several years ago.
  • Pine tar can be extracted from the bark of the white birch by heating it over a fire. Pine tar makes an excellent natural adhesive, which indigenous peoples used for all kinds of purposes including securing stone points on arrows.

American Basswood

basswood

The American basswood (also called American linden) is a very common tree – especially in the eastern U.S. It prefers moist soil and is often found by creeks, streams, and ponds. It likes to grow several shoots from the base so it’s not uncommon to see the basswood growing in what appears to be clumps. Basswood trees have large, heart-shaped, coarsely-toothed leaves and dark red young leaf buds. One of the most distinctive features of the basswood is what I call the “tongue.” A tongue-shaped leaf (the small, light green leaf in the picture above) grows at the base of the regular heart-shaped leaves on mature trees. Hard, little, nut-like fruits dangle from the center of this “tongue” leaf throughout the summer.

basswood-cord

Basswood survival uses:

  • Delicious edible leaves – especially in spring.
  • “Bass” comes from the word “bast,” which is an old word for rope. The inner fibers from the basswood make some of the best natural cordage on the planet. In one of my wilderness courses, two adult men could not break a 1/2″ thick strip of basswood bark.
  • Basswood is my favorite wood to use in fire by friction setups. It is soft and makes a perfect friction firewood for bow drill spindles and hearthboards and for hand drill hearthboards.
  • Basswood is preferred by most wood carvers and chainsaw carvers because of how easy it is to work and carve.
  • Inner bark layer is edible and can be scraped off with the edge of your knife. It has a very sweet flavor.

White Pine

pine-tree

The leaves of the white pine grow in batches of five needles. Every fall the white pine loses all of its needles, except those that grew that year. Pine is an evergreen; evergreen trees keep some green leaves year-round, unlike deciduous trees, and have needle-like leaves. They also produce cones (pine cones) instead of flowers.

pine-needle

White pine survival uses:

  • Resin can be used as a fire extender when mixed with tinder material.
  • Resin can be heated and mixed with crushed charcoal to make a natural epoxy.
  • Resin-rich joints and stump pieces make incredible fire kindling.
  • Make pine needle tea from the green pine needles – very rich in Vitamin C.
  • Inner bark layers are edible.
  • Harvest pine nuts from the pine cones.
  • Pine needles make excellent fire tinder.
  • Pine needles make excellent natural insulation material for debris huts and survival shelters.
  • Green pine boughs are perfect for lean-to shelter roofs.
  • Green pine boughs are great for making a bed to protect from the cold ground or snow.
  • The lower, dry, dead branches of the pine tree (squaw wood) is often some of the driest fire kindling available. It is exposed to the wind and also protected from the elements by the year-round needle canopy above. I’ve also used these branches for making bow drill fire friction sets.
  • Very effective candles and lamps can be made from pine resin.
  • Pine resin can be used to waterproof seams in clothing or crude containers.
  • The very pliable surface layer roots make excellent (and strong) natural cordage. Use as a whole or split into smaller pieces.

White Oak

oak

White oaks have rounded leaf lobes instead of pointed ones like red oaks. Contrary to popular belief, acorns are edible. I like white oak acorns better because it seems they are less bitter and it takes less effort to leach out the tannic acid (which causes this bitterness) to become more palatable. An abundance of acorns in mid-summer makes the oak family almost impossible to misidentify. Oaks are some of the largest trees in the forest; I have many white oaks at Willow Haven that are over 100 feet tall and easily 3-4 feet in diameter.

White oak survival uses:

  • Acorns (after leaching out the tannic acid) can be ground and used as flour to make acorn bread.
  • Tannic acid (which can be extracted by boiling or leaching acorns and/or inner oak bark and twigs) is anti-bacterial. I’ve used it as an antiseptic wash before and have heard of it being used to quell diarrhea.
  • Acorns can be used as trap bait for squirrel and other small game animals.
  • Can tan leather using the tannic acid found in bark, acorns, and wood.
  • Oak is a very hard wood that is good for ax handles, digging sticks, and shelter frameworks.
  • When dried, the white oak flowers make suitable tinder bundles and can be found in great abundance certain times of the year.

Sugar Maple

maple

The sugar maple is one of my favorite trees and probably one of the most abundant in the Eastern woodlands. Its beauty is on full display when the leaves change each fall into bursts of red, orange, and yellow. The leaves usually have five lobes, and the tips are pointed. Young maples have smooth silvery bark. The unmistakable “winged helicopter” seeds are a tell-tale maple tree indicator. The sugar maple is the source for maple syrup; this tree is preferred because its sap has high sugar content. It takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

maple-tap-bucket

Sugar maple survival uses:

  • In late winter/early spring when the sap is running, the sugar maple is an excellent source of drinkable water (sap) that needs no purification. Maple sap is nature’s version of an energy drink – rich in sugar and nutrients. I’ve filled a 1-liter canteen in as few as 15 minutes before. Maples don’t have fully developed (or any) leaves during this time of year – hence the importance of being able to identify in all four seasons.
  • The seeds inside the little helicopters are edible, just like edamame. I just boil them and lightly salt. They can also be fried or added to stews. Remove the outer helicopter.
  • I almost always use maple branches for wilderness cooking. Whether it’s a spit roast, a hot dog stick, or utensils, I can always find a maple branch suitable for the task. Maple branches naturally have a lot of forks, which is great for pot holders and other wilderness kitchen uses. I also use the leaves to wrap fish or other small game animals when cooling in an earth oven.
  • Young maple leaves are also edible. Toss them into a salad or boil them down with other spring greens. They get bitter and rough as they mature.

Willow Tree

willow

There are tons of different willow varieties, but every willow I’ve seen has a similar leaf shape. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped, and grow in great numbers along the branches. Willows must be in moist areas to survive. If you’ve found a willow, then there is a water source nearby.

Willow survival uses:

  • Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. I can personally attest to its effectiveness in relieving headaches and inflammation. Just chew on a few small green twigs and swallow the juices.
  • In spring and summer, willow bark will peel away from the wood and makes excellent cordage that can be used for a huge variety of tasks.
  • Young willow branches and saplings are very flexible and can be used to weave a variety of different baskets and funnel traps.
  • I’ve used dried willow wood on many occasions for friction fire sets – both hand drill and bow drill.
  • Willow saplings make excellent frog and fish gigs.

Now is the time to take those cuttings!

I know it’s only January, and most places have snow, frost, rain and heaven knows what else being pelted around the skies!

But this is the ideal time to take cuttings from your favorite shrubs, like Forsythia, Dogwood, roses, Viburnum, Philodelphus, and also climbers such as jasmine, honeysuckle, grape vines, as well as fruit bushes like gooseberry, currants and blueberry.

Choose this year’s growth and using a very sharp knife or secateurs, cut a piece about 20cm long, just below a bud with a clean cut….don’t leave any damaged wood as the cutting may not take and will rot off.

Once you have several cuttings, you have 2 choices…either propogate them till the spring in a greenhouse with previously prepared soil with compost added or plant them in pots, which have a mix of compost plus sharp sand mixed 60/40.

These cuttings will be ready to plant in the late spring/early summer.

Taking cuttings will act as an insurance against any losses you may make due to your valuable plants dying off or being damaged during adverse weather.

More on plants for attracting insects and wildlife coming soon….

 

 

My favorite outdoors shop has a great idea for Xmas!

Over the past, we’ve talked about various pieces of equipment that can make our lives easier and safer when out and about.

And many of those items have been from my favorite outdoor activity shop MEC here in Vancouver.

Now, MEC have launched a wonderful idea just in time for Xmas.

It’s their very own gift card, which you can give to your nearest or dearest (or both!) as an Xmas present, saving you the time and hassle of searching for the right gift and wasting countless hours that you can spend at home relaxing!

The gift card can be purchased online entirely (although there is an option to have it mailed to you via normal post (snail-mail).

You can choose from a whole range of photos for the front of the card as well…amounts you can put on the gift card range from $25 to $250, more than enough to satisfy every taste…and pocket!

Click here to find out more….

🙂

 

The lost bee…

“There are bees in every hive with inherent imperfections: they cannot navigate from the directions given by others.

They fly off everywhere. They are always getting lost. They never gather much pollen.

Yet, by an incongruous twist of fate, these bees can still dance directions to others.

And so they occasionally return from their misguided wanderings with delirious gospel of what they have found.

Good god, what they have found! It is the lost bee who finds new flowers.”
Jack Haas