Monday, October 24, 2011

Frickin Blogger

That Belize City post was a bastard to get out. For some reason Blogger decided I didn't want the text of the first few sentences to have any color. Why the hell wouldn't I want it all to show up? Then it decided I wanted it all to be part of the picture link. I'd forgotten about the "edit HTML" tag in the blog editor...

Anyway I've got 2 more ports of call, Costa Maya and Cozumel but I'll save those for later when I'm not pissed at Blogger.

Vacation - Belize City

From Roatan we went to Belize City in Belize. Belize City is also brutally poor. We went cave tubing there and to get to the cave you ride ~40 miles in a bus which was clearly retired from service in the US before heading down south. Those 40 miles show you some slums and plenty of poor folks in them. The cave tubing itself was awesome, the water was cool but not cold and the hike in was through beautiful rain forest which is only just recovering from a fire a few years ago. We booked our tour through the travel agency but if I were to do it again I'd use, their equipment was superior and they hiked in farther so they got a longer ride on the river. Our guide wasn't anything exciting, he tried but... is also about half the price.

We had to tender into Belize City which means you get on to a smaller boat and ride in to the dock which is too small to handle big cruise ships. I quite enjoyed the trip on the smaller boat, the pilots we had were amazing. Its great to watch somebody who really knows how to handle such a craft.
Belize City has the same sort of touristy area that Roatan does but unlike Roatan its not really safe to go wandering real far from the dock. I did see some little shopping areas but we didn't know what to expect with the cave tubing and hadn't brought much money or our camera.

Instead I'll give you a picture of me on the upper deck of the ship. Off to the upper right is the bridge and this is by far the windiest point on the ship, or at least the windiest portion that passengers are allowed on. Strangely the wind is in my face although I'm facing the rear of the ship which is headed at about 20mph in the same direction as the camera. When I jumped, as I did just after the picture was taken, I'd go backwards a good 2 feet.

Vacation! - Roatan

I've mentioned our camp in Maine a few times in relation to my homesteading idea. The thing about having land and a cabin is that you end up putting a lot of time into it. Dad and I inherited the camp in 2002 and since then its pretty much taken up all our vacation time. Twice a year my parents and Angie and I go up there and spend a week basically working on the place but also relaxing. Dad and I usually go for another week in November to hunt deer.

This year is Angie and my tenth wedding anniversary so I figured it was time for us to take a "real" vacation that didn't involve us staying in a little cabin with my parents. So I booked us a week on the Norwegian Star out of Tampa.

This is Roatan, its a little island off the coast of Honduras. If you look behind us you can see a bunch of trash on the ground, thats pretty much what Roatan is like. What you can't see, off to the right of the picture, is a number of old bums drinking rum. Roatan is poor, like dirt floor, no door, back is sore, nobody's sure, nothing is pure kind of poor. It reminds you how much you've got.

The boat docked at Roatan as it did at all our ports except Belize City. Just off the dock theres a big shopping area. Considering how poor Roatan is you quickly realize that most of the people that live there never get to buy anything in the shopping area.

I wanted to get out of the tourist trap so we headed out on the street and Angie was quickly grabbed by Jeff who got her to take him on as a guide.

Here's Jeff and Angie on a little ramshackle dock out in front of a bar. Jeff took us into town where Angie shopped some, then he lead us around a little loop into a brutally poor section of town. I presume he did this because its where he lives and the area he knows best. I wouldn't have gone into the area on my own as I'm generally the wrong color and I don't speak any Spanish which would generally be a problem. Toward the end we had a quick lunch of Iguana which it turns out are endangered. Knowing that now I realize we shouldn't probably have been eating it but its legal, or at least not a problem, the restaurant had a sign proclaiming iguana...
After Angie overpaid Jeff we found the "Made in Roatan" shop which is run by a Canadian couple Debi and Bob. Bob is a pastor and they're using this shop to give back to the community. You can find out more about it on their Blog Probably the best thing about buying stuff in the Made in Roatan shop is that you know the items were actually made in Roatan and not in a Guatemalan sweat shop or worse in China. Many of the knick knacks we found were labeled with "made in China" and some had spots where the label had clearly been removed. Plus this benefits the community more directly since Bob and Debi don't make money off the shop.

After spending three days worth of money in three hours we collapsed back in our state room. I couldn't believe how little time had gone by.

Originally I was going to make just one post about this vacation but I've quickly realized I have too much to say so I'll break it up by our ports of call. As always I'll label my posts, just search for "vacation" to find them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Somedays you're the windshield, some days you're the bug...

Tim texted me Sunday with a good looking lantern, big hat, nickle base. I said "Get it!" which he did. Today he delivered, what a deal right?
I think its a 220C. With 5 and 5 on the bottom it could well be a war year lantern.

This afternoon I was fortunate to have a little time on my hands and started to disassemble. The burner tubes are missing but I've got a couple from a parts lantern. The air tube is tweaked a little but not enough to really bother anything. Needs new valve packing and has an interesting square valve stem.

Finally I get the burner frame and collar off and...
Yup, the hole goes right through. Gives an interesting insight into what the innards look like but means this fount is trash.

Its clearly a drilled hole but why is it there? My only theory is that somebody drilled it in preparation for converting this lantern to electric. The odd thing is there really ought to be another hole out the bottom. Did they run the cord out the fuel cap? Its the wrong one for this lantern.

All this explains the slipshod quickie way the lantern was reassembled and probably the missing burner tubes too.

Oh well, at least I didn't pay a lot.


Model railroading folks will buy models and then end up modifying them. Maybe the model is too modern or too clean or too, I dunno, square... They call this modification "kitbashing" so when I took a Coleman Alcohol bottle and modified it so it wasn't a piece of crap I liberated the term.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On cooking

In previous posts about my crazy homesteading idea I talked about having fuel to get me through and also providing for water. Cooking of course requires both.
I figure I'll start my time with a normal load of groceries. Seems like a smart settler would bring groceries along. That'll probably last a week. After that it'll be mostly beans and rice.
Why beans and rice? Outside of the US beans and rice is a major staple food, it keeps well, is easy to cook and is shelf stable. Keep the animals, air and moisture out and it'll keep a good long time.

I'll also do some foraging which will at least provide counterpoint to my rice and beans. Won't probably be enough to survive on though. A priority will be to get a garden growing. Things like spinach grow quickly and again will provide variety. Longer term squashes are very easy to grow and provide heavily. I'm told tomatoes are difficult but I've never had any problem. New England is a very forgiving climate for gardening and I intend to take advantage of that.

There are many sources of pot meat that folks in the north don't tend to think of and the big one on our farm is the groundhog. Also known as a woodchuck we're talking here about marmota monax. Since our farm hasn't been actively worked for nearly a decade at this point our fields are frequented by the fat critters. A .22 rifle makes short work of one and once I start gardening removing them as pests will be a requirement. There is no fixed season on groundhogs so this is all totally legal. Also legal year round are squirrels, unfortunately northern Maine isn't home to big fat squirrels like the grey and fox squirrels you see down south, we only get the little reds. Still if all you'd been eating was rice and beans I suspect a little squirrel meat would be welcome.

The biggest problem will be a shortage of fuel. If I limit myself to the initial fuel load I will certainly at some point be forced to burn wood to cook with. Early on while the weather is cold I could cook on the woodstove in the cabin. However warmer weather will certainly make that impractical. Back in the old days they had summer kitchens, a kitchen outside to keep the heat out of the house. I like this and ideally I'll source another small boxwood stove like we have in the camp to provide for such. I could extend the roof off of the shower house and with a good brick floor it would be pleasant. Otherwise I'd need to build a firepit and tripod. I could cook in a dutch oven over the open fire. For things like basic rice and beans this wouldn't be too bad. Still it'd be a world of dirty pots and smokey fires.

Fuel for wood fires is plentiful. No real timber harvesting has been done on our land in more than 50 years. We're mostly grown in with spruce and poplar. The latter is actually quaking aspen and not poplar proper. Both make decent fire wood although generally referred to as "gopher wood" in that as soon as you load the stove you need to go-fer wood because it burns up so quickly. Considering the relatively small amounts of wood needed for cooking I would start by thinning the trees around the camp, our woods are badly grown in with inter-meshing branches that stunt growth and cut down on animal traffic. Historically these dead low branches are called squaw wood and clearing them out is good for the forest, it lets the trees get bigger and keeps forest fires at bay. I presume over 6 months or so I'd get to the point where I'd have to start foraging fairly far from the camp which is good news. Very long term there would be a need to actually cut some trees for wood. The rule of thumb is usually that you can cut a cord of wood per acre per year without damaging the land. We've got probably 10 or more acres in trees so I basically can't ever cut too many trees as long as I spread my cutting around...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Coleman #16 Radiant heater

I don't remember if I've mentioned my Coleman radiant heater before. I've wanted one since I first found out they exist. I got mine from Warren at the True North Gathering last fall, then he sold me the radiants early this year.
Its pretty badass, built mostly like a stove but with a manifold not unlike the exhaust manifold on a car which distributes the gas to just below the radiants.
Anyway enough yammerin' wheres the video?

BTW: I was denied a YouTube partnership, apparently I don't get enough traffic. Plan on seeing some new videos from me that aren't mostly about Coleman lanterns ;)


Now I've seen everything.

Of course every time I say that I remember that I've said it before and weird random crap keeps coming up so without further intro check this out:

Yeah "elevator photography since 1993" thats what I'm talking 'bout. Dude goes and rides in elevators. Whoda thunk anybody would care? Then again who would think I'd have 25,000+ views of me playing with lanterns and stoves. Theres something for everybody I guess.