How Make a Feather Stick Flower

I sat in the park last weekend, reading a book and minding a sleeping baby James. I saw some sticks laying around the bench on which I was sitting, and got to thinking.

I picked up a stick, pulled out my Swiss army knife, and carefully and slowly carved down the diameter of the stick.

At the end of each knife draw, I tilted the blade slowly out about 90 degrees to open up the feather.

I carved feathers over and over again, until most of the stick had been transformed into thin slices, and soon I was almost done with carving a feather stick. I cut off the bottom (which was pencil-lead thin by this time) and trimmed off the top.

Looking around for something to dye the flower with, I saw some American Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). I grabbed a branch full of them, cut a pop can open and mushed it all up.

Then I coated the flower in the berry juices, and carved a flower stem out of a piece of beech.

I dyed that green by rubbing some dill leaves over it.

I pieced the two together with a hole and sharp tail, and voila!

Desperately Cleaning my MSR Dragonfly Stove & Then Realizing I'd Plugged It Into the Fuel Bottle Wrong To Begin With.

So yesterday evening, I put myself to the task of totally cleaning my MSR Dragonfly Stove. It had stopped working recently, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I would pump the cannister, light it and an orange flame would sputter and spit for a few seconds before extinguishing. Nothing I did was helping. I assumed that since I had stored white gas (Naptha) in it over the last 2 winters that the fuel had gummed up and clogged up the fine passageways within the intricate stove mechanism. So I laid it all out on a sheet in the backgarden, and set to work.

It is a great stove, it can simmer or roar loudly on full bore. It can be very noisy, but I've not got any complaints about that.

There is a cleaning kit that comes with it, held in the black MSR pouch. That's also where I store the twist-top for the fuel cannister (which is currently replaced by the fuel pump assembly within the fuel bottle top), the instructions and the aluminium wind shield.

The arms fold out and spring-load back to the element, to allow it to store down small. The arms keep the burner off of the ground to help insulate the unit, and the arms fold over to make a pot holder.

I had never opened the repair kit, encased in a little zip-lock type bag. The instruction manual was in about as many pieces as the Dead Sea Scrolls, before they were fixed at the museum. The high gauge aluminium wind shield was nicely folded up and sooty.

I laid it all out to prove that I had all of the manual pages. I do.

The repair kit has a screwdriver/wrench/spanner combination, a couple of spare parts (O-ring and fuel filter), a different sized jet so that I can burn kerosene in the stove instead of naptha or gasoline (VERY COOL OPTION!), some oil to lubricate the fuel pump plunger and a needle tool to clear out the thin hole through which fuel is introduced under pressure into the burning chamber.

I pulled the fuel pump out of the fuel cannister, filled the cannister up about 4/5th (you need some space for the fuel to pressurize under pumping) and screwed on the lid.

I set the stove mechanism down carefully, and located the burner ring in the center.

I pried it off (it is held on in three locations by pressure tabs) using the metal tool and my fingers.

I placed that aside, and then removed the output valve, and pulled out the shaker jet. The shaker jet is a piece unique to MSR stoves (I believe). If you think you have a clogged valve, you just literally shake the unit up and down a few times. The needle should clean out any gum or obstructions.

Here at the bottom you can see the shaker jet.

I took them both out and inspected them.

Then I got the 'needle-tool' as I like to call it as I have no other name for it.

I used the needle-tool to clean out the jet, and felt no resistance and saw no evidence of scaling or gumming up. Even still, I did this slowly and deliberately - just in case.

Then I removed the valve head of the shaft that leads from the fuel tube to the burner unit.

The brass is soft and I left marks on it using the wrench. Note to self - be more careful!

I pulled out the piece within the tube and cleaned out the three grooves that are perpindicular to the threads with my fingernails as instructed. Nothing came out - it was as clean as a whistle.

Then I reamed out the tube by rotating a sharpened tool 20 times clockwise. I think a couple of flecks of impurities fell out, but then again that could have been something in my hair that fell out as I leaned over the device and sheet... Suffice it to say, these flecks did not hop away after hitting ground.

I screwed it all back together again.

I put the shaker jet and the valve back in.

Then back went the burner ring.

I tried burning it again and it sputtered and spat and went out. I sputtered and spat a little and then thought I'd try to do a little admin on the pump unit.

I lubricated the pump cup with mineral oil from within the repair kit.

I pried off a casing to gain acess to an O-ring held within - this keeps the air pressure sealed as the pump operates.

It looked ok.

But that's what they said about the O-rings on the space shuttle Challenger's solid rocket boosters (sorry, that was in poor taste). So to be safe, I replaced it with the extra from the repair kit.

Following the instruction manual, I further dissasembled the pump unit and inspected and checked for any incongruities.

Everything seemed congruent.

Very congruent.

Things flexed where they were supposed to, things were clean where they were supposed to be clean. I was at wits end (which isn't saying much).

And then I looked at the part of the manual describing how to attach the fuel line to the fuel pump. I stared. I furrowed my brow. I stared again. I looked at the actual unit. I spun it around on the sheet. I changed the angle of the manual. And then I realized what I had done wrong.

I had inserted the fuel tube as above into the fuel pump. It clips on and all, there is no mechanical impediment to doing this, as far as I could tell.

But then I inserted it 180° upside down, as shown in the diagram.

I pumped the pump 15 times, let some fuel out into the cup to prime it, lit it, and after a minute, opened up on the fuel gauge.

My MSR Dragonfly Stove worked perfectly.

So while I'd done a dumb thing, I'd done it inadvertently. And as far as I can ascertain, there is no mechanical or engineering preventative to stop anyone else assembling it the wrong way. There should be.

In no time flat, the burner ring was red-hot, the roar of the flame filled my ears, and the water began to steam in the pot I'd laid on the stove.

I put the aluminium windscreen around it and waited until it boiled the liter of water.

Monty just sat and watched the whole thing go down. He knew all along that I'd assembled the fuel line and fuel pump attachment incorrectly, but decided just to watch me figure it all out.

You can buy one at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada:
"The MSR® DragonFly™ stove is excellent for frequent users, mountaineers, and gourmet four-season cooks. The bane of most liquid-fuel stoves is their inability to simmer. The DragonFly can sustain any output from candle flame to full bore, making it ideal for souffl├ęs and stove-top baking. By switching the supplied jets, you can burn white gas or kerosene. The DragonFly features a Shaker Jet, which cleans most blockages by simply inverting the burner and shaking it before lighting the stove. The separate fuel tank allows the burner to be safely and completely enclosed with the wrap-around windscreen (included) for effective operation in breezes. Three dual wire pot supports spring out from a folded position to provide a very stable pot base that holds larger pots or fry pans. The DragonFly now includes MSR's CoolFuel Tool. This handy accessory helps clean out carbon deposits that can build up in your DragonFly stove. Helps your stove cook backcountry gourmet meals season after season after season."


SPOT Satellite Messenger and Request for Cold Beer

My friend Yoyar is currently on his way to a 14 day solo camping and canoeing trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario. We were talking about what he might do in case he got in trouble (sprained ankle, broken wrist, torso three-quarters devoured by a pack of wolves and then having the remaining one-quarter predated upon by a family of black bears, etc...). We thought first of all that he could send an SMS (phone text message) daily to say all is well, or to send a 'help' message. But there isn't phone service in the vast majority of the Algonquin region, so I suggested that he look into the SPOT Satellite Messenger.

So he went and bought one - about $200 from BestBuy and a basic $10 monthly service plan.

There are 4 buttons on this satellite device (which is about the size of a BlackBerry device):
  1. An OK Button.
    When you press the OK button, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it through the SPOT satellite network. Your contacts receive either an SMS text message on their mobile phone with your message and coordinates, or an email with your message and a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

  2. A HELP Button.
    Once activated, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it along with the HELP message through the SPOT satellite network every five minutes for one hour or until cancelled. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.
    I guess this is one step up from 'I'm okay' but not severe enough to alert the emergency and Search and Rescue groups as described next. They say it is for a non-life-threatening incident. I can't imagine what help would be required. Cold beer? More beef jerky? More mosquito repellent? Maybe more like 'Ran out of gas' or 'Bicycle tire punctured' or 'Snowmobile stuck'.

  3. A Track Progress Button
    Yoyar didn't spend the extra for this option, but it would allow the user to send out 'cookie-crumb' messages every 10 minutes, so that friends and family could track the person's progress live via Google Maps. This would be great so you could do a trip log later. But even still, you can simply hit the 'OK' button every so often (unlimited allowance) and this would do the same thing. It just means you'd need to manually put together all the GPS locations later. Big deal.

  4. A 911 Button.
    Once activated, SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and send that location along with a distress message to a GEOS International Emergency Response Center every five minutes until cancelled. The Emergency Response Center notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, the Canadian consulate, or other emergency response or search and rescue teams – as well as notifying your emergency contact person(s) about the receipt of a distress signal. Note: not to be pressed for fun, or if you are bored and lonely in the middle of the wilderness and just want to hear the sound of someone else's voice.
Coverage is a lot better than my cell phone service provider's coverage.
"SPOT works around the world, including virtually all of the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia, portions of South America, Northern Africa, and North-Eastern Asia and hundreds or thousands of miles offshore of these areas."

Les Stroud does a promo for the device - see below.

Cool, huh?


Knife & Fire On Your Person

My friend Yoyar is preparing to leave for a 14 day solo canoeing trip through the north west area of Algonquin Park. Lucky devil.

He was watching a Ray Mears video yesterday (Canoe Journey), where he proclaims the importance of having your 'knife and fire kit on your person at all times'. Mungo agrees with this. Cleverly, Yoyar believes this applies to him and writes that it will be
"...useful if those giant eagles come down from Middle Earth and make off with my pack. (I always worry about that happening)."
Cough. Eh-hem. Anyway... He has a new Frosts Mora knife and sheath and has attached it all together thusly:

He used the Figure Eight Follow Through to secure the line. He also added a half hitch on the free end to add a tiny bit of extra security.

The gold caribiner attaches to the belt loop on the knife sheath. The red caribiner will attach to his belt. This keeps the knife close to his hip but dangling somewhat below so that it doesn't bind against his hip when he bends. Smart thinking, I think. I neck-carry my knife, for a number of reasons. One reason is that hip-carrying is uncomfortable for times when I kneel down and the sheath bites into my hip. The dangler is a great idea. It won't get in the way of the pack either while it is on his back. The fire steel and striker hang from the cord and go in his pocket.



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