Homemade Oatmeal Goat’s Milk Soap

When I started out, I had no idea that making soap would be so easy, or so fun.  Plus, it’s been almost six months and I still have about fifteen bars of my home-made, goat’s milk oatmeal soap to use or give away.  There’s still a shopping bag half-full in my cabinet, and whenever someone comes over, I pawn a few bars off on them.

Making soap is a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous.  The reason Melting all the oils and fatsoap is soap is that it has lye in it.  Lye is a poisonous chemical that can burn your eyes, irritate skin, and even kill if it’s ingested.  If you have pets or young children, I would recommend that you make your soap outside.  Also, don’t use your favorite spoon or kitchen scale for the lye, as the tools used to handle the lye should not be used for food.

The total cost for ingredients was less than $40.00 and for that I got fifty-one bars of soap.  Not too bad, as this is far more soap than I could use in a year!  Everyone I’ve given it to enjoys that nutty oatmeal aroma and scrubbiness of the whole oats.  With the goats milk and ground oats it creates a medium lather but doesn’t leave my skin dry.  Its’ nice color, texture and aroma make it a pleasure to use for showers or for hand soap at the kitchen sink.

I first started out by picking up supplies and ingredients.  I bought a little coffee grinder, some cheap trays to use as forms, buckets, gloves, a thermometer and a kitchen scale.  I also bought lye, goat’s milk, lard, olive oil, and coconut oil.  I had oats and vinegar at the house already.  I put the goat’s milk in the freezer to let it get a little slushy, but that will be explained later.

The first step is to warm all the oils together so that they mix and pour easily.  The lard and coconut oil melted quickly and I left them on the stove on low with the olive oil mixed in so that the whole mixture would stay liquefied.  I then threw a cup of whole oats into the mix and also a cup of finely ground oats as well.

Step number two is to mix the goat’s milk and lye.  When lye is mixed with liquids of any sort, there is a chemical reaction that occurs that makes the mixture very hot.  If the lye is added too quickly, it can react so fast that there may be a small explosion of lye and milk.  It is definitely best to err on the side of caution when mixing these ingredients.  This is the reason that the goat’s milk should be slushy.  It will tamper down the veracity of the chemical reaction, while also helping to get the mixture back down to a working temperature more quickly.

Pour the slushy goat’s milk into a pail.  Slowly add the lye to the goat’s milk, stirring as you go.  Only add small amounts of lye at a time.  This is best done outside.  However, if it’s a really windy day, you should probably seek the shelter of a garage or shed.  When all of the lye is added to the milk, it will be turning into a bright yellow puddle in the pail.  Adding the milk and lye to the oilThis is the heat from the reaction caramelizing the sugars in the milk.  Don’t worry, this will not be the color of the final product.

Then let the mixture cool down to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  I made my batch in March in Upstate New York, so the cooling process did not take very long.  I did everything inside except measuring and mixing the lye.  The pail of goat’s milk and lye cooled down in about a little under an hour, but if it had been summer or in a heated basement or garage, it would have taken much longer.

Next, take another pail and add the liquefied oil and oats mixture, then start slowly adding the milk and lye mix.  Then sit back, relax, and start stirring.  Now what you’ll be waiting for is the “tracing” to occur.  This is when the mixture has hardened to the point where when you drag you spoon through it, the line left behind by the spoon lingers for a few seconds.  It is still a pourable liquid, but on its way to becoming almost pudding-like in consistency.  This could take some time, but my batch started to trace within forty-five minutes.  At this point, the liquid soap was far less yellow than it had been and was starting to look more oatmeal-like in its appearance.

When the trace started to occur, I really reached down into the depths of the pail with my large spoon just to make sure I had a good mixture.  Then I took out the cheap pans and recycled yogurt containers and started to spoon the soap into them.  I had two six-by-six baking pans that I added the soap to along with some small plastic containers.  The soap could be poured directly into the larger pans, but needed to be spooned into the smaller containers to avoid spillage.

I let the whole magellah sit overnight to harden a little bit and the next afternoon I popped the mostly dried soap onto an old pizza box and started to cut it all into bars.  With the yogurt and plastic containers I was able to just pop out the preformed bars, and even get a nice little design from the yogurt containers, kind of a Union Jack pattern.  The baking pans needed to be cut into bars though, and I found that a wet knife made the cutting a lot easier.  It also made the edges smoother and caused far fewer chips to break off.  Although, I kind of like the home-made rustic appearance of the bars of soap with rough edges.

The last step is the hardest of all.  Sitting there and letting your new batch of soap cure for a month or more.  I left mine for five weeks just to make sure it was good and done.  The chemical reaction we started by adding the lye to the milk doesn’t finish right away, and because of this it is important to let the soap cure properly.  Keep it in well ventilated area at room temperature.  I kept mine in a pizza box lined with wax paper to protect the soap and to keep my cats form licking or eating it.  This method also conveniently kept the finished product pet hair free.

All in all, I have had a great time making soap, and several of my friends The soap in formsand family are now set up with a few months supply of soap.  In hindsight, I cut some of the bars a little small, but for less than a dollar per bar, I have no qualms about burning through the little bars.  Plus it’s nice to know for quite some time, I won’t have soap on my shopping list.

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The Homestead – #1

Hot showers.  Man, I could literally write an entire column about how The Green Eggmuch I love hot showers.  It is such a pleasure to take a shower each morning.  I used to get up and throw wood in the stove and then stand there and let the heat wash over me for a while before I got my day going, but now I can let the heat of a hot shower actually wash over me.  It’s one of the main reasons I get out of bed every day.  Well, that and work and animals to take care of and my soon-to-be wife and stepson.  But really, the shower is the best part of my morning.

It’s nice to be back after the summer hiatus.  Audrey didn’t want to move into my cabin, and I can’t say I blame her.  And her apartment was only a little larger than my cabin, and just as drafty.  So we looked for a house to rent starting in the spring, and found one rather quickly.  The rental housing market up here is cut-throat, and we were lucky to get into a house that we could afford with floors that weren’t too uneven and decent windows and insulation.  Three weeks after we moved in the house was sold, and we were on the hunt again.

It took us most of the summer to find another house to rent.  We found one and have now settled in.  Well, physically anyway.  I am still in awe of the wonders of modern living.  Light switches and hot water and indoor pooping are all wonderful things.  Unfortunately, the light switches are in odd places so I’m still sporting the headlamp every single day.

And despite the changes, Pico is still lying on the couch next to me and Midget is crowing in the yard.  We’re working on a new coop for the flock, which has grown and changed some.  We have four new girls, but Blondie was causing trouble, so I took her to a friend’s.  We lost one hen a few months ago to a fox in the yard, but other than that the girls are doing good.  We get far more eggs than we can eat, and two of the new hens haven’t even started laying yet.  We’re going to be giving away a lot of eggs.

As I get used to modern amenities and family life, I still think about the cabin a lot.  It was harder to move out of that place than any other house I’ve lived in.  Hell, most of my apartments I couldn’t wait to get out of.  But that cabin was more than just a house, it was home.  It was a part of my everyday life.  And that’s the biggest difference I’ve found.  I don’t care about my house now so much.  But the loss of the cabin has been replaced by my new family, and it’s definitely been a worth-while trade.

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Cabin Life – #111

Rainy and in the forties.  This is the worst type of weather I face all The New Girlsyear.  I know, the snow is just gone, and I had to have my chickens live in a tent in my kitchen for a few nights, but hiking in and saving the chickens from the bitter cold were easy decisions.  This weather presents a much tougher decision:  whether to burn the precious little dry wood I have left.

Even with a few weeks off from the cabin this winter, my wood supply is quite low now.  The wood I found over the winter isn’t quite dry enough to burn, and it’s a tough call to use up wood when it’s still above freezing.  If the temperature doesn’t dip too low, I’ll bundle up with a sleeping bag and run the little propane heater for a little while in the morning before it warms up outside.  But this cold damp calls for a fire.

I’ve got the glass doors wide open, and the fire is crackling away behind the grate that keeps the sparks in.  I didn’t realize how much of a difference the new stove really made until just the other day.  I had a fire going with the grate in place, and when I came back in I noticed a smell I hadn’t smelled in some time.  The cabin smelled like wood smoke, and it was actually pleasant.  That smell had been ruined for me by the old woodstove, which used to belch smoke inside with such regularity that I was sometimes called the Walking Woodstove.

I like being able to hear the pop and crackle and have an unobstructed view of the flames.  Sure, it’s not all that efficient to use the grate, but honestly, I don’t want it too hot in here.  The trouble with the temps in the forties is that it’s too cold not to have a fire, but too warm if I do have a fire.  And there’s the rub.

It’s just another one of life’s seasonal transitions out here.  I have to make calculated decisions on heating and the wood supply.  But I also have to be comfortable.  It can be a grueling choice to make.  There have been, however, several choices I’ve made recently that were considerably easier.

The first was to order more chickens.  Amy and I split an order, and I picked them up from the post office yesterday.  The little chicks were peeping like crazy in the seat next to me on the way from the post office.  With the weather being so damp and cold, the chicks will be staying at Amy’s for a couple of weeks.  Plus, I don’t want Midget to get too rough with the new girls.  They have to be big enough to put him in his place, even if judging by the behavior of Whitey, Brownie, and Blondie he is quite the charmer.

I’m excited to expand the group with a few new girls.  A silver laced wyandotte and three Auraucanas are going to be joining the flock in a couple of weeks, just when the weather gets nice.  In addition to these four new girls, I took a fertilized egg from each of my current girls to Amy’s.  She has a hen that’s very broody right now, and I thought it would be fun to see if she’ll hatch some of Midget’s offspring.  This hen was just sitting in an empty nesting box when I got there.  She’s so intent on sitting on eggs that she wouldn’t get up when I pushed her.  I had to lift her butt and put the eggs down underneath her.  She made a quiet noise and settled back in, so we’ll see how it goes.

And finally, as much as doubling my chicken flock may impact my life, this final decision will no doubt have a bigger impact.  I’m sorry to say, but I will in all likelihood not be living in this cabin at the end of the year.  I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and for some strange, unknown, and possibly unknowable reason, she said yes.  And fortunately or unfortunately, my little cabin is no place for us to start our lives together.

I give her a lot of credit for putting up with my living situation for so long.  For almost two years she has never once complained about the toilet paper being in the oven, or having to hike in, or being covered in dog fur when she leaves.  I guess I owe it to her for us to find a place that has indoor plumbing, electricity, TV, internet, a refrigerator, and an oven.  I can go either way on the electricity or TV, but my bride-to-be deserves nothing but the best.  And in my opinion, indoor plumbing is the best.  Jeez, I’ve been out here too long.

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Cabin Life – The Want-Ad

Roommate Wanted!!

Experience the excitement of living off the grid, while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of Mother Nature right outside your door!

I’m looking for a roommate who isn’t afraid of roughing it and having some adventure!  You will get back to nature by having to venture outside to use the bathroom, regardless of the temperature.  Oh, and forgetting the warm toilet seat hanging over the stove when you go to the outhouse in the middle of winter should be the definition of adventure in the dictionary!  You will make faces and sounds you never knew were possible, but don’t worry, there won’t be anyone to see or hear you except the birds!  (I won’t be able to hear you because the outhouse is quite a walk from the cabin.  Privacy at its best right there!)

You’ll also become a lean, mean, healthy machine!  The quarter-mile walk from where you can park up to the cabin will ensure that you’re getting plenty of cardio!  It’s like a double bonus when you forget something small in the car and have to go back for it too!  You can walk almost a whole mile before you get to the cabin if you manage to just leave one important thing in your car!  Not only that, but you’ll be expected to carry a forty pound jug of water up the long, snowy hill to the cabin at least a couple of times per week, so your arms will be big around as tree trunks!

And speaking of tree trunks, you can really commune with nature by helping to cut down trees for our firewood!  Hippies rejoice!  You will literally be hugging trees every single day of the year!  You’ll help carrying the logs down to the cabin, get to gently caress them as you set them up for me to split with a huge metal maul, and then get to stack them in the most efficient and fast way possible.  You can then round out the beautiful circle of life when you bring the firewood in to burn in the woodstove!  Give your woodland buddies a little smooch before confining them to a slow, smoky, and brutal death!

And that’s only the beginning of the benefits!  Buy some books and get a library card because you will be the braniac your mom always knew you could be!  With no TV, movies, or internet, your brain will get to be as sharp as the chain on the chainsaw.  You can read about taking care of chickens or which type of lettuce will grow best in the garden or try to identify which type of snake just slithered in through the unscreened and open front door and other exciting things!  Gone will be the days of lying around on the couch rotting your brain on the boob tube.  You’ll be so starved for amusement that you won’t even be able to blink when there is a TV on near you due to the complete lack of visual stimulus that a completely unbroken white landscape provides.

As mentioned above, you’ll have complete and total privacy in the outhouse.  But living in the middle of the woods at the very end of a dead end road with a quarter mile of trees and hills separating you from the closest motor vehicle also provides a ton of solitude!  It’s so liberating being able to walk around naked inside the cabin with no fear of anyone just walking by and seeing your birthday suit!  Of course, since we’ll be roommates, we may have to figure out a birthday suit schedule.  The hours allotted to nakedness will depend on your facial hair and gender.

I’ll expect you to also do half of the household chores.  These won’t occupy more than fifteen or twenty hours a week, and really aren’t so bad.  You’ll have to help with the dishes, and as we have to carry water in to wash dishes, you will be tasked with making sure that you have enough water to actually wash the dishes.  Allowing my dog to simply lick the plates clean can only be done at my discretion.  Oh, and there is no indoor plumbing at all, so when washing the dishes, you will have to keep an eye on the bucket under the sink that catches all the water and waste from brushing our teeth and dishes and cooking.  When the bucket is full, just take it out and dump it on the compost pile, not so bad, right?!  But since you’re at the compost pile, go ahead and spend five or ten minutes stirring it.

There’s also carrying in firewood every single morning and night, and even sometimes in the middle of the night.  It’s a rare treat to see how clear the skies and how bright the stars are on a crystal clear, moonless winter night!  You’ll forget all about the bone crushing temperatures that would kill you in less than a half hour if you were to fall on the ice and knock yourself out!  Plus, you’ll get to know the cute girl at the hardware store because you’ll be there every week getting batteries for your headlamp.  In fact, you can probably get to know her well enough to ask her out!  Of course, convincing a member of the opposite sex to travel two miles down a dirt road to walk a quarter mile into the woods with you might be a tough sell.  But hey, weirder things have happened!

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not all glory and sunshine and fun little jaunts to the outhouse.  There are a few downsides, too.  The cabin only has single-pane windows and no insulation.  But, this just means that you’ll get to snuggle up tight in your favorite sleeping bag with a rating of twenty below zero!  There is also no way for any sort of professional or volunteer help to get here.  That means that the cops, volunteer fire department, or ambulance will be around to help if you cut your leg with chainsaw or fall off the roof cleaning the chimney or break your ankle walking to the woodshed.  But you will become far more self-sufficient and your tolerance for pain will get to be much better!  Now that I think about it, it is all glory and sunshine!  Give me a call to schedule a meeting, I pinky swear I’m not a serial killer.

Rent is very cheap for females lacking facial hair and males with lots of facial hair.  The rent goes up depending on the combination of those two factors.

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Cabin Life – #109

There’s a steady stream of water pouring off the roof in front of the big The Fox Trackswindow.  There are no more icicles, and the shingles are showing for the first time in months.  It finally feels like spring.

I sat outside most of the afternoon, relaxing in a lawn chair enjoying a good book.  As I sat there soaking up the sun, the snow melted around me.  The chicken coop roof is clear after being baked in the sun all day, and the snow fossils of old footprints are appearing and melting again in less than a day.

The chickens have been enjoying the warmer weather and longer days too.  For a couple of months, I hadn’t gotten more than an egg per day from the three girls, and sometimes not even that.  But in the last week, I’ve gotten more than a dozen eggs as they’ve been basking in the sunlight.

The chickens are eating better too, finding food in the melting snow that they missed the first time around.  Unfortunately, they are not the only ones scratching around for food by the chicken coop.

A few nights ago, we got a few inches of snow.  I woke up and let the girls out and fed them.  In my early morning haze, I failed to notice the set of tracks going from behind my cabin, around the coop and run, and then off into the woods via the left trail.

An hour or so later, after I had made some coffee, I looked out the big window and finally noticed the tracks.  I was looking at them puzzled, knowing that Pico often walked a similar route around the coop.  But then I noticed that the tracks came from my left, behind the cabin.  This is not an area that Pico frequents.

I grabbed my camera and went out to do some tracking.  I immediately noticed that the tracks were smaller than Pico’s.  Working backwards from the coop, I followed the tracks around the cabin to the window right next to my bed.  This sly little fox had walked on the snow right up to my window without ever waking up or arousing Pico.  What a lousy guard dog.

The fox had come from the direction of the Upper Camp, and even crossed paths with some rabbits over by the woodshed.  The previous night I hadn’t locked the chickens up because it was going to be warm, but from then on I have locked them up every night.

I’ve only seen the fox tracks one other time, but it still puts me on edge.  I know it won’t be able to get the girls at night when they’re locked in the coop.  I just hope that the fox isn’t desperate enough to come around during the day.

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Cabin Life – #108

The sun is shining later and later each day, and some of the snow is melting The Owl's Mealand dripping off of the roof in front of the big window.  It’s officially been spring for almost a week now, but don’t bother telling Mother Nature that.  The forecasted thirteen degrees below zero tonight isn’t as bad as the negative twenty-three we got a couple of nights ago, so I guess, in a way we are getting more spring-like temperatures.  But again, temperatures in the negative teens aren’t that spring-like to me.

I’ve been back at the cabin full time, and having a few weeks off from living out here was definitely nice.  After three winters having to haul in water and use an outhouse no matter the temperature, the shine of living off grid has worn off.  I still enjoy many, many aspects of it, but this winter has definitely been a mood killer for me.  I was able to tap a few of the maple trees the other day and start collecting sap, but it’s been slow going with the cold returning.  And the hike up the driveway isn’t any easier than it was in February.

But while the winter goes on, I cling to the knowledge that spring is indeed near.  I certainly don’t feel alone in my antipathy towards winter at this point, but there are still some advantages to having this much snow on the ground.

Last night I was driving home just after dark and spotted a flash of white on the side of the road up ahead.  Yes, I know that everything is covered in snow that there are “flashes of white” literally everywhere, but this small patch was moving quickly.  My initial thought was that it was deer hopping the snow bank to head into the woods.  But with the more than two feet of snow on the ground at my cabin, deer tracks are something I haven’t seen in quite a few months.

I instinctively tapped the breaks and looked for another deer.  Usually when there’s one, there’s more, and hitting a deer and wrecking my car at this point would probably make me throw up my hands and move back to Florida.  I looked up and saw a spread of wings in front of me, and realized that it wasn’t a deer but the tail end of a rather large owl taking off that I had caught a glimpse of.

The owl wasn’t very far in front of me, but I never got a good look at it because it was flying directly away from me.  It had a wingspan of a couple of feet and was certainly impressive in size, but what species it was I couldn’t say.

I wondered why the owl had been on the snow bank so I stopped to have a look.  I had obviously interrupted a kill in progress, and after snapping a few photos, I moved on.  I didn’t want to keep the owl from his fresh meal.  Plus, after this rough winter, I kind of feel like all of us up here are in it together.  Even the animals.

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Cabin Life – #107

I’d like to tell you that it’s been a long couple of weeks out at the cabin.  That, Ice on a sprucehowever, would not be the truth.  The truth is, it’s been a couple of very lazy weeks lounging around in the comfort of an actual house.  The weather has been terrible and I was having to hike into the cabin and my firewood is running low and I was sick of dragging a forty pound jug of water a quarter mile uphill twice a week.  So I’ve been staying at my girlfriends with Pico and Herbie.  And the Levine men have officially taken over the couch.

I’m still formally living at the cabin, but it has been a nice break.  After three winters, I needed some time away from the work and cold and frustration of a house with no indoor plumbing.  The chickens are still out there, and are doing well.  As the days get longer, the nights haven’t been as cold, and they are doing fine.  I go out to the cabin pretty much every day, so even though I was still having to do the hike in, at least I wasn’t having to haul my laundry and bags of dog food and cat litter up that hill.

But speaking of hills, a friend invited me to climb a couple of High Peaks this past weekend.  I needed to get out of the house and just said yes when he texted me.  I didn’t realize that it was going to be a twenty four mile ski/snowshoe/hike.  But we headed out at about six am on Saturday to climb Cliff and Redfield mountains.  Twelve hours and forty-five minutes later, we struggled out of the woods and back to my car.

I drove to my girlfriend’s and stumbled in the door.  I literally could not move a muscle without moaning in pain, but I made it through the night without dying.  The next morning, as I painfully and stiffly made my way across the living room, she convinced me that best way to beat the soreness was to go for a walk or hike.  Now, keep in mind, she was not volunteering to go with me, just basically telling me to get out.  I think my moaning may have been worse than I thought.

I decided to head out to the cabin to feed the chickens and make sure they still had water, and very gingerly hopped in my car.  It’s about a twenty minute ride to the cabin, and every second of the way I was annoyed about the upcoming hike up the driveway.  I could barely walk on the flat, warm floor of the house, how was I possibly going to make it up the driveway.

As I got nearer to the cabin, I noticed that my neighbors were at their camp down the road.  I figured I’d take care of the girls and then head over to say high.  But as I neared the end of the road by my driveway, I was taken by the most magical sight I could behold at that moment:  My driveway was plowed.

I cracked a huge grin and smiled the whole way up the driveway.  I knew that my neighbor had come down and plowed with his tractor, and I was so happy I actually whooped with joy.  The thought of having a clear driveway again after two months was too much to handle.  I hugged the chickens and rubbed Pico’s belly until he got sick of it and ran down the driveway.

I took care of everything at the cabin and went down the road to say thanks to the neighbors.  I gave him a hug and promised to drop off a few gallons of diesel fuel in payment.  This one kind act changed my whole outlook on the last month or so of the winter.  It seemed as if so many problems had been solved by this one incredibly kind gesture.  My mood was lifted and my spirit sunny.  The neighbor s told me they were happy to help, but that they wouldn’t be back for a few weeks.

All of those warm feelings stayed with me until I got back and checked the weather forecast.  Twenty inches of snow predicted.  It’s amazing how fast the wind got sucked out of my sails.  Not that it’s all bad.  I know that the snow is here for a limited time, but it was so nice driving into the cabin a couple of times.  I can’t thank my neighbors enough for plowing, even if the openness only last for a few days.

Gear Review – Osprey Talon 33 Backpack

I purchase the Osprey Talon 33 backpack two months ago.  I have used it in a variety of conditions and am pleased by its performance.

I bought the pack to use on search and rescue missions for Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, however I used it on several hikes and Osprey Talon 33cross-country ski trips before being called out on my first search.  I use the NASAR pack contents as a guide for what I should carry.  I added some more stuff than they recommend, but also eliminated a few things.  I see no need to carry a tracking stick when I have no idea how to use it effectively, but a folding saw can come in handy when you’re in a thick alder swamp with only a couple of feet of visibility.

The pack had some extra room in it even with all the stuff I carry.  I use a couple of water bottles instead of a bladder, so with a bladder there would be enough room in this pack for a summer overnight.  While out skiing with the pack the first time, I was satisfied with the way the hip belt carries the load.  I did not have to deal with the pack shifting a lot, even over several layers of clothes.

I found that the small mesh pockets on each shoulder strap are very convenient for holding an energy packet or something else small.  I didn’tOsprey Talon 33 want to put a knife in there as the pockets are open at the top, but securely stored my multi-tool in the zippered pocket on the hip belt.  It’s easy to get to and in no danger of falling out.  I stash a compass in the other hip belt pocket, but they are large enough for a small digital camera as well.

My favorite design feature of the Talon 33 is the number of pockets, with very little on the outside of the pack to get hung up on brush.  After two days searching through alder swamps, off-trail through old growth and across rock ledges, the pack never got hung up once on any brush or rocks.  I was able to move through the brush easier because of the streamlined design of the pack.

However, there are actually nine pockets in addition to the main compartment and the beaver tail.  Two water bottle pockets on either side, one on each shoulder strap and hip belt, two on top of the hood, and a zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the hood.  Small things are very easy to access while still being secure.

I put my personal identification, keys, and phone in a baggie and put them in Osprey Talon 33the zippered mesh pocket.  I kept a notebook and maps in the top pocket, rain cover on the side, and crampons and gaiters in the beavertail.  I had no issue with a lack of storage with this pack.

The downsides are few in my opinion.  The shoulder straps are comfortable, light, and airy, but a little flimsy.  I can’t help but look at the padding through the mesh and wonder when it will start to rip.  The back also isn’t quite stiff enough.  I always carry a small foam pad to sit on, and it helped stiffen up the back a little bit.  The location of the water bladder is in the usual spot against your back, so using a bladder will probably cause the typical back bulge and make it less comfortable.

All in all, I am really happy with my purchase.  It does what I need it do, and even a little more.

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Cabin Life – #106

The wild winter weather has continued.  Tonight it’s so warm that even The Rock Voleseveral hours after the sun went down, there is still a steady drip-drip-drip coming off the roof.  In the forties tomorrow, the season just can’t seem to make up its mind.

That’s not to say that it has been an easy winter.  And to me, there has been a recurring theme out here at that cabin that demonstrates this better than anything else.  I have had a steady supply of small rodents around the house looking for food.

When I moved into the cabin a few years ago, Amy not so light heartily called it the “Mouse House.”  Since then, it has been cleaned up significantly.  With Ed and Herbie running nightly patrols, the mice moved out and other than a very occasional rustling in the walls, I have not had to deal with any other rodents inside the cabin.

That is not to say that there is a lack of small rodents at the cabin.  Red squirrels used to attack the bird feeders on a regular basis and there is a family of mice living in the outhouse.  There are certainly plenty of places for them to hole up for the winter out here.  Unfortunately, they seem to have decided to try and spend nights in a couple of buckets I have.  This has resulted in me finding more dead rodents in the last month than I’ve seen in well over two years.

The first one was a mole that for some reason climbed into the open bucket in the outhouse that holds the lime.  The lime is the off-grid version of a vanilla candle, and is essential to using the facilities.  I was not surprised to find the little bugger frozen solid in a bucket that offered no food or shelter even though I had no idea why it went in there.  I buried him… Unceremoniously.

About a week later, I spent a nice comfortable night watching TV and soaking up electric light and flushing toilets at my girlfriends, and when I got home in the morning, I found what I think is a rock vole frozen to death.  This was in another small bucket on the porch in which I keep some chicken food.

I use a combination of store-bought chicken feed and winter wheat, and when I was making a mix of the two, I had a small amount of the wheat left over.  This is a bucket that I can understand the rodents trying to get into at least.  It was frozen solid, and since there was only a little wheat left in it I just tossed the vole and wheat into the woods.  Hopefully something eats him before he thaws and smells and Pico eats him.

And even though there was only a little wheat frozen to the bottom of the bucket, the very next day there was a deer mouse in the bottom.  This was the first of the three rodents that was still alive when I found it, and since it hadn’t been living inside my house, I decided to let it take it chances back out in the wild.

As I laid the bucket down out front, the mouse scampered off.  It went a few yards down the trail towards the chicken coop, and then stopped.  I went inside to get the camera, and when I came out again, it was making a big loop over the snow back towards the woods.  I watched it run and leave a neat little trail across the snow.  I got cold and went inside, knowing that I wouldn’t get a good shot of the mouse now.

Later, as I made my way to the outhouse, I noticed that the mouse tracks went right under the shed.  I took a little solace in the fact that it’ll be around for the rest of the winter.  I like having the wildlife around, even if it does require me to perform funerals on occasion.

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