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Teaching Women to Shoot

“Here, shoot this,” said Tom. “What do I do? How do I hold it and what if I push the wrong button?” Molly replied. “Ok, I’ll shoot it.” Boom! “Ouch! Damn that hurt! Is it supposed to hurt like that?” cried Molly. “Were you even aiming the gun at the target?” Tom yelled. “That shouldn’t hurt. Let’s try this again.” Does the above scenario sound familiar? That was me nineteen years ago learning how to shoot. I have to admit that I loved the fact that I could shoot the gun, but I was terrified each time, because I didn’t understand what I thought was a complicated thing capable of killing me. I knew I needed to hold perfectly still during each shot and I failed at that miserably. I didn’t understand how to truly use the sights on the gun and looking at the target confused me because I couldn’t focus on the sights and target all at once. Finally, I didn’t get a chance to look at the box of ammo and wasn’t shown how to load the gun on my own, it was just handed to me. It’s not rocket science that men and women are different creatures, so why do some people teach men and women the same way to shoot? Let’s face it, men are more logical and have great spatial skills and they can pick up a gun and seem to have a pretty good idea of what to do. Women, on the other hand, are emotional and we have to go through every single step to understand how the gun works. Frank, an instructor of mine, told me to learn from Vicki Farnam and Diane Nicholl in the book Teaching Women to Shoot so I could really help address women’s issues when it comes to shooting firearms effectively. The authors were pioneers in helping women shoot and as I read the book I finally started to understand what I needed to do. I had a lot of “Aha!” moments and after nineteen years these authors addressed issues I had dealt with for many years. The fundamentals of shooting need to be addressed one by one and presented in detail and in an orderly sequence for women to comprehend them. I will address the following areas that need to be taught to women: safety, gun parts, slide lock, fit, grip, stance, sight alignment, trigger control, recoil, and follow through. The first step with teaching guns is always teaching the four universal safety rules as follows: All firearms are always loaded. Never point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to kill or destroy. Keep your finger off the trigger until on target and ready to fire. This is known as the master grip. Be sure of your target and what is beyond. Next, show the master grip and focus on ALWAYS keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. In our Pretty Loaded gun class we go through a power point that explains all the parts of the gun and we show a video to the students so they can visualize how a semi-automatic pistol and revolver works. It’s very important for women to understand every part on the gun, because it is very intimidating to not know what each button or lever does. I always take the time to reiterate that the only thing on the gun that will make it go “boom” is pressing the trigger and the trigger requires 5 to 12 pounds of pressure depending on the gun. I have actually had students think that the magazine release or slide lock lever fired the gun also. We then talk about clearing the gun and doing a chamber check and go over this slowly with each student until they are comfortable. Women struggle with this part depending on the size of their hands, the size of the gun, and their strength. Have the woman point the gun down range with a master grip and turn her body 90 degrees to the right (assuming right handed shooter). The gun should be held close to the body and rotate the gun so the ejection port is tilted towards the ground. Place the weak hand over the top of the slide as far back as possible and do not cover the ejection port. The strong hand is then positioned on the gun so the thumb is underneath the slide lock lever. Then push the hands away from each other, pushing the slide lock lever up when the notch is above the lever. This is an area where we always make them focus on where the gun is pointed during this process. The slide locking back needs to be mastered safely and many times to make it comfortable for them.  The next topic is how to hold the gun properly and this is where you need to pay attention to grip. A lot of women hold the gun the wrong way and then they end up being injured by slide bite or they limp wrist the gun and it doesn’t cycle properly. To grip the gun, place the grip of the gun in the web of the strong hand between the thumb and index finger. The strong hand should also be as high as possible on the back strap of the gun. The weak hand is then placed as high as possible on the side of the gun and is wrapped on top of the strong hand so the index finger is under the trigger guard. The thumbs should be pointing up and parallel to each other and touching the slide (I know that some people advocate a thumbs forward grip, but the “lineage” of my instructors has been thumbs up). I tell my students that the strong hand has a push feeling and the weaker hand has a pull feeling so the gun is secure. A gun that fits the woman is very important and it will be more comfortable and precise to shoot so make sure the slide should line up with the bones in the forearm. The weaver stance works well with women because the weight of the gun is kept closer to the body with the arms bent and this helps with muscle fatigue. The strong side foot drops back and the other foot is forward as if in a fighting stance. It is important to not let the shooter lean back at the waist to counter balance the weight of the gun. The next thing to focus on is sight alignment. To do this correctly, the front sight is aligned with the top of the rear sight with equal space on either side of the front sight while pressing the trigger. It is important to explain that our eyes only focus at one distance at a time and it is impossible to keep the sight and the target in focus at the same time. Once things are lined up, focus on the front sight with the back sights and target blurred. A great tip here is to explain the arc of movement and it is impossible for anyone to hold completely still. It is important to continually reconfirm the position of the front site and make any adjustments as she presses the trigger. Trigger control is very important and it is critiical to not allow the finger to fly off the trigger after the gun fires. The finger holds the trigger all the way to the rear during recoil and after the sights are aligned the finger allows the trigger to move forward enough to reengage the sear so the trigger can be pressed again for the next shot. With most modern semi auto pistols, this audible and tactile position is called the “trigger reset”. This takes some time and muscle memory to master this, but should be addressed immediately. Recoil is probably what scares most women about shooting a gun. Recoil produces movement and noise and this can startle women, making them more anxious. It is very important to have good ear protection and sometimes doubling the ear protection helps with this problem. The most important thing is not letting the woman shoot too big of a gun for her hands or too large of a caliber. This is where the proper grip and stance will really help with recoil. Make this initial experience a good one so they are not anxious every time they shoot. Follow-through is the last issue we address. If they look over the sights at the target just before, during or after the trigger press, then the shot will be a miss. Proper sight alignment and minimizing the movement of the gun for a fraction of a second it takes for the gun to fire and the bullet to travel the length of the barrel and past the muzzle will improve accuracy. The final thing to teach women is how to read a box of ammo and look at the gun to see what ammo works with the gun. The more you can have them take responsibility for their gun and “own it” will make them remember important information. The difference between target and defense ammunition is something to carefully point out as well. All ammo is not created equal, and it’s especially important to be sure the defensive ammo of choice functions well in that specific firearm before deeming it worthy of trusting your life to. The next time you want to take the woman in your life shooting try to follow the steps above and you will probably have a great experience. Even better? Get a trained instructor, especially someone who works well with women if they are available in your area. Be Safe. Be Empowered. And become LOADED!  

Beth Warford

Beth Warford

Shooting Bench, Saw Horse, Target Frames Projects

Knockdown Shooting Bench from kosterknives.com
I found a good design for a shooting bench made from a single sheet of plywood on the web. It requires a 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ plywood, and I chose pressure treated at near $45. It also requires some 1″ to 1.5″ screws and wood glue. So I spent around $50 thus far. If I paint it, I will spend a bit more. 4×8 3/4″ plywood (treated) $40-$45 Box of 1″ to 1.5″ screws $5. Wood glue $2 For the project I needed some tools. First, I need to build sawhorses from kit with brackets.  $65 to $70 for 3 sawhorses (4’wide by 31″ high) 3 sawhorse bracket kits  $30 Box of 8 penny nails  (8d) $5 6 – 8′ 2×4’s (treated) $30 Tools needed for making sawhorses. Skill saw or hand cross cut saw. Carpenter pencil Tape measure. Rasp file or grinder with grinding wheel or cutting wheel might work. Small hammer. Tools needed for drawing shooting bench. Carpenters pencil Giant Sharpe Tape measure Tri square Framing square Drafting squares and circle tool Drafting compass 4′ straight edge if possible 1′ ruler marked in inches down to 16th inch Tools needed for cutting out the pieces and assembly. Jig saw with good wood blade. Sawzall or router might work, as well. Small skill saw or any circular saw could help with straight line areas. Drill Motor with bit just larger than jig saw blade for corners and slots also small bits  for drilling pilot holes and counter sink holes. Phillips screw driver bit for drill motor for screwing a few pieces to the seat. Rasp file or grinding tool. Sanding tool or sand paper if you want to sand edges. Materials needed for target frames around $100 or less. 8′ steel T Post.  8 – 10  $7 ea. Chicken wire 24″x25′ $12 Tie straps and wire for tying chicken wire to post. Horizontal pieces for making the frame a box shape. These will be tied with wire to the vertical post. I used bamboo sticks. Tools needed for putting up target frames. Steel fence post pounder. Side cutters or wire cutters. Pliers for twisting wire. 4 Target Frames (2-3 hour $100 project) First, I’ll start with the target frames. I sized them for 2′ wide by 3′ tall human silhouette targets that I get for $1 each. In our case here, the pond dam was 60 yards long. There is a very steep and nice hill on the opposite side as a natural back stop. The pond dam curved in such a way that I was able to place each target frame so that all of them could be seen from the firing position, without one being in front of the other. Frames were placed at 20, 40, 50, 60 yrds. Not 30 yrds. because there was a hole in the dam where water had overflowed the dam and washed it out. I may put one there once I fill that hole. However, all one needs to do to have a 10 yrd and 30 yrd target is move forward 10 yrds.  For bow target, we have a pillow rag filled type target and its very easy, now that I have these frame setup to move it back and forth to accurate ranges of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 yrds. I simply pounded the post in 2 for each frame and 2′ apart. The post might hit rock or otherwise become crooked during pounding. I simply bent the post by pulling on it to straighten it after I attained the proper depth. They bend quite easily.

CaverDude

CaverDude

 

Chronic Medical Conditions and a Shift in Perspective (Part 1)

Chronic Medical Conditions can be difficult to deal with.  A Harvard Health Publication article writes, "dealing with the pain and aggravation of a broken bone or burst appendix isn’t easy. But at least there’s an end in sight. Once the bone or belly heals, you’re pretty much back to normal. That’s not true for high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, or other chronic conditions. With no “cure” in sight, they usually last a lifetime."  If this is the case, it is important to adjust and plan accordingly. This article is intended for those interested in a different perspective on chronic conditions.  Much of this content will also be appealing to those interested in preparedness.  The preparedness mindset often has us living on purpose and with purpose.  More often than not, this causes us to live deliberately.  When we live deliberately, we maintain control over our lives. Frequently, these chronic conditions that ourselves or our loved ones suffer from make us feel as though we have no control over our lives whatsoever.  The control we can gain via deliberate living is incredibly liberating. Not only is this control liberating, but it is also very possible - but we cannot do it alone.  For those who have a chronic medical condition or for those who have friends or family members with a chronic medical condition, we can benefit greatly if we allow others into our lives.  For various reasons, such as fear or pride, we may try to deal with these issues on our own.  While this may be possible, it is incredibly challenging.  We are all human and we have human imperfections but there can be strength in numbers. While the support of friends and family is helpful, there are times where counseling could likely be of tremendous benefit as well.  I would imagine that working with a professional counselor could likely help find new and different ways to work towards acceptance of a chronic conditions. Working with others is great, but a counselor might help us find new tools to deal with the unique challenges presented to us on account of a chronic medical condition. However, sometimes it takes a dramatic life event such as a hospitalization to facilitate such a change.  There are days where I wonder if this is the case for myself.  On October 1, 2013, I began to regain consciousness in the NeuroSciences Intensive Care Unit in a hospital located in Denver, CO.  Since then, my entire life has changed.  A close friend suggested, "make your mess your message" - and with that advice, I bring this article to you in an effort to share my experience with you and see the different messages we can take away from it. "Make your mess your message" resonated with me.  As I thought about what my friend had told me and prepared to write this article, I learned that this saying was coined by Robin Roberts.  Robin Roberts is the anchor of ABC's morning show Good Morning America.  She battled with breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).  You can read more about her and her powerful story here. While I don't have cancer or MDS, I do have a chronic neurological disorder known as Epilepsy.  I have had this condition for over 20 years, as I was first diagnosed in my early teens. As with many other chronic medical conditions, I was directed to see a specialist.  After trial and error, we found a medication that was most effective for the control of the seizures I experienced.  It is important to note that seizures are a symptom of epilepsy.  We will discuss this in greater detail later. Once I became “stable” – I led a life not unlike most other teenagers in the suburbs in the 80’s and 90’s.  However, seeing as I had a chronic medical condition, my life was not like that of most other teenagers during that time.  In my particular case, epilepsy is not a debilitating condition.  Some doctors and nurses I have met drew parallels between the epilepsy I suffer from and Type 1 Diabetes. Doctors typically suggest that we take medication regularly if we wish to experience minimal symptoms of the condition.  While I cannot speak to what doctors suggest for conditions other than my own, I suspect that many people with chronic medical conditions have doctors that suggest they choose to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Generally speaking, as long as people with epilepsy take our medication regularly and live a balanced lifestyle, we should experience good health.  I am in full agreement with this statement.  Each time I suffered a seizure, there were contributing factors that I could attribute to the cause of the seizure (forgetting medication, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, etc).  These contributing factors are simply patterns behind the symptoms of the chronic medical condition that factored into my life.  For years, I chose not to deal with and/or recognize the patterns that played a major role in my life.  We will discuss this in greater detail later. During my teenage years and for the bulk of my adult life, I dealt with this disorder as little as possible.  As previously mentioned, I had to see a neurology specialist several times a year.  I did my best to take the medication to control the seizures, but often times simply “forgot” to take it.  Reflecting back on these times, I suppose the forgetfulness of it was part of the denial according to the Kübler-Ross model, or “the five stages of grief.” Generally speaking, the Kübler-Ross model is a series of emotional stages that is associated with death and dying, hence the name of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' book, “On Death and Dying” However, it is my opinion that chronic medical conditions can warrant extreme emotions and thus similar stages and emotions. The five stages of grief are as follows: Denial Anger Bargaining Depression Acceptance Further reading on the Kübler-Ross model reveals that, “Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.” I was taking up hobbies that were not cheap and purchasing high-end equipment.  I sought thrills and adrenaline.  I would often times become interested in hobbies that would pique my interest enough to buy the new gear associated with them…only to quickly lose interest in them, moving on to something else that captured my attention.  It was as if the denial regarding my epilepsy was "...replaced with heightened awareness of possessions.”                     These behaviors put me into debt.  I didn't concern myself with the debt and really didn't think anything of it.  Growing up, the culture of debt and consumerism was as rampant as ever.  In college, it was simply more of the same.  Afterwards, I worked jobs that didn’t really pay well, but left me enough time to focus my attention on my newfound hobbies rather than the growth of my career.  Furthermore, I became quite the social butterfly and began attending lots of live concerts, parties with many late nights. As I write this now and reflect back on my past, things begin to make a little bit more sense.  During my teenage years, I was angry because I didn't understand epilepsy.  In the same way, I suppose I also was in a state of denial because my condition "wasn't that bad."  This denial led to difficulty remembering to take my medication regularly.  Moreover, the challenges with accepting my epilepsy led to the accumulation of incredible personal debt and used frivolous spending in college and beyond to make myself “feel” some emotions that seemed to be lacking.  I lived far beyond my means and further went into debt. The purpose of sharing the above information is that sometimes, when we are forced to deal with chronic medical conditions (or the reality of impending death or other extreme life circumstances), we may have a tendency to behave in a manner that is consistent with the Kübler-Ross model - at least, that appears to play into how it worked out in my own life.  As the years progressed and I matured, I took the necessary steps to deal with my life as it was.  The circumstances of my life included, but were not limited to, my medical condition. As I began to accept my medical condition, I also began to understand that I don't have to let it define me. It is important to make the conscious decision to live life on purpose.  When we live deliberately, we maintain control over our lives.  When we maintain control over our own lives, we can experience increased peace of mind and many other benefits we may never have experienced before.  This is incredibly liberating.  This is also entirely possible...if you choose to live this way. For those who have a chronic medical condition and/or family members with a chronic medical condition, I would suggest that you seek counseling in order to find ways to work towards acceptance with what it is that we are dealing with.  When we come to terms with what we must deal with, we can deal with it more effectively and efficiently.  We simply live life on                                                                              life's terms. In the case of my own chronic medical condition, epilepsy, seizures are a symptom of epilepsy.  This is important because I take medication to treat the symptoms, rather than address the root cause of the condition itself.  While I am not suggesting that anyone should discontinue taking medication prescribed by their doctor, I am suggesting that we all begin looking beyond our doctors for treatments that include but are not limited to those that deal primarily with allopathic or traditional Western medicine. Also, after having dealt with the condition for a substantial amount of time - I also grew to recognize, acknowledge and accept the patterns behind the symptoms of the condition that I have.  One of the best methods of treatment that I can engage in is very simple:  live a balanced lifestyle and life in a manner according to the patterns that one determines contributes to the negative aspects of one's lifestyle.  Ultimately, we do this through a consistent analysis of our lives in an effort to recognize the patterns, for better and for worse. While these chronic conditions can be difficult to deal with and there may be no "cure" in sight, there are many different ways to view the conditions that we have or those that we love and care about have.  With a shift in perspective, we can gain the control we may have felt we never had.  We can experience freedom.  While these chronic conditions may last a lifetime, we can experience freedom for a lifetime as well...if you have the right perspective.

Rob Kaiser

Rob Kaiser

Hearth and Home

While the dynamic of today's nuclear family has changed some in recent decades, the ruts of historical roles of family members are still deeply etched. Hopefully, the tide of the two income household will reach a high water mark, and more families will try to see to it that one parent can stay home with their children. Whether roles within the family fall along gender lines or not, the roles are usually well defined. Myself, being the man of the house, find I feel ultimately responsible for not only being the provider but also being the protector. As the protector we want to don the sword and shield and protect our family should the need arise. But therein lies the rub… As the provider for my family, I am often gone. My work takes me far away and for lengths of time. And whether your job is across town or across the world, and regardless of if it is for few hours a day or weeks at a time, you are gone. And who then is left to protect your family? No matter how much we want to be there for our family, we are often gone for large swaths of time throughout the day. But for example, in my case, my wife is… Personally, I love training. I love shooting. I love spending days on the range. I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and development through professional firearms courses. But all of those come with a substantial time and financial cost. And while I should practice, maintain and further develop my skills, I have found those costs better spent if spread between my spouse and me. While I am with my family X amount of time, my wife is with them nearly ALL the time. So it only makes sense that an investment in the safety of your family is an investment in the training of your spouse. Sometimes this can be tricky. Some people are afraid of or don’t like firearms. This often stems from a lack of knowledge and experience on the subject. But at any rate, it needs to be dealt with delicately. Usually, this does not involve you taking your spouse to the range. Here is where a professional course is worth its weight in gold… About 3 years ago my wife and I attended a 3-day level 1 pistol class. It took the students from no skills to shooting dynamic drills by the end of the course. It isn’t to say it was just for beginners, but it was structured in a way that everyone, regardless of skill level, was pulling information out of it along the way. But it wasn’t throwing new students into the deep end either. The class was phenomenal. Not only in the information covered (there are only so many ways to teach sight alignment, trigger control, etc.) but in how the information was put into perspective. The drills were often put into the context of a scenario. Such as being in the checkout line at a grocery store when someone starts shooting the place up. Or a parking lot at the mall… The instructor did a great job of bringing the reason for the skills home to the students. He did this in a way that made sense and touched on the reality of the world we live in, regardless of how we may perceive it at times. In talking with the instructor off line, I was thanking him for putting on such a great class and commenting on how much my wife not only enjoyed it but also how the lessons were driven home in the examples he gave. He, in turn, brought up a funny analogy that seems to have held true with respect to shooting. To paraphrase: “Someone’s first experience shooting is like losing their virginity. If it is a bad experience it leaves a long lasting impression. And conversely, if it is a good experience, people get hooked.” Two days after that first pistol class we took, my wife woke up that morning and said to me, “I keep having dreams about shooting since that class.” She then left the boys with me for a little while, went across town and bought herself a Glock 17. Go talk to someone that has been shooting and doesn’t like it though… It will usually come out that their first experience was not a good one. And for some reason, someone usually thinks it is a good idea to hand a new shooter a 12 gauge shotgun right out the gate. Don’t do this… Set them up for success. While you can most certainly impart the firearms knowledge you have, it is money well spent to find a legitimate class. There is a reason Professionals have made a Profession out of teaching firearms skills. With this in mind, choose that first class wisely. My wife has since been to a number of classes, some great, some ok and some sub par. Find a reputable instructor. There are some great ones out there and a number of them travel. Chances are you can find something relatively close. Do your research as well and look for After Action Reports and reviews from students. And of course don’t be afraid to contact the instructor directly and ask if the class your looking into is a good fit with respect to skill level. While there are a lot of teachers out there, two that my wife and I have experience with that stand out are Matthew Graham of Graham Combat and Chris Costa of Costa Ludus. Both are highly recommended. And lastly, should you go through a course with your spouse, go to opposite ends of the firing line. You are there for your individual learning experience. You can chat and compare notes during lunch. Get the most out of the experience you are paying for. Stay armed and stay proficient…

Ivan Loomis

Ivan Loomis

How To Combat Cabin Fever Through Introspection

I have come to notice a certain trend among the homesteaders and permaculturists I surround myself with. It seeps its way into their consciousness around this time of year. The final harvests are done, the frost has set it, and I can see it arise in all of them: a melancholy dread of winter. Yes, there are certain little things they get excited about like baking and maybe the holidays, but in general, the people I know in this space get pretty darn sad when fall hits. I have also seen a few articles floating around the internet in which people suggest activities to do to avoid these winter blues that so many people experience and I do think those are great. I think it is important to stay active by doing things you love. However, I can’t help but feel like these suggestions were just ways to merely endure the winter and not truly enjoy or benefit from it like I believe you can. I wanted to think about this in a deeper sense. Why do so many people despise being cooped up in a house for more than a few hours? Why can’t they just be still for more than a day? Where does this dread of winter or inactiveness in general come from?   I really wanted to delve into these questions and explore options of how to combat the sometimes paralyzing depression people feel when the cold months roll around. So I started to think about these things and I made a few little observations. There is something about those of us who choose this homesteading life style, we are often go-getters. We are do-ers. We are the people who have a million projects happening at once and even if sometimes they don’t get finished, we are always working on something. I think that is such a huge part of why I respect this crowd so much. I admire hardworking, passionate people. But I think that this particularly determined, energetic personality can have a few problems as well. For instance, I think one of the biggest reasons why these do-ers cannot handle being cooped up or even alone with themselves is because they spend 90 percent of their time avoiding working on themselves. Think about it, we spend so much time trying to make our land better, make our earth better, make our world  better that we often times forget to work on things that have to do less with the big scary world and more to do with our personal mental well-being. Sometimes it feels easier to control other things in our lives than our sometimes flawed personalities, but at the end of the day the only thing you actually can make better, is yourself. Improving who you are is so important in this chaotic world because sometimes it is the absolutely only thing we can do to make the world a better place. We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves. If we all just do our little part and work on becoming good people, then maybe the world wouldn’t be so corrupt. After coming to this conclusion about where this dread comes from, I thought about some ways of thinking that would benefit anyone slipping into the sadness of winter and turn this time of year into something extremely powerful for themselves and those around them. I think in all honesty it comes down to this one statement: Stop Avoiding Introspection. This is the first step of really allowing yourself to grow over the winter. You have to stop avoiding reflection and start looking deeply at yourself. Let yourself turn inward and cast away the layers of denial you have created over time. I am not saying you have to induce your own coma, I am not asking you to meditate for 3 months. You can even look at this like a project in itself, if that makes it easier for you. But I just want you to really try to take a good hard look at yourself and try to think about who you are as a person and what you want or need to work on within yourself. Instead of just finding little tiny ways to just tolerate the winter,  or endure the loneliness, I want you to full on embrace it. I want you to take this opportunity to really dive into yourself and ask yourself, what have I been saying I would work on, in regards to myself, for years? If you are feeling particularly stir crazy you could even make a list. Lists are in. Lists are hip. Lists make you feel productive. Make a list with this question at the top: “What have I always wanted to improve in myself?” OR “What have I always wanted to change about myself?” Now, I am not encouraging self loathing or self criticism. God knows we already get enough of that from the outside world. Trust me, I am all for embracing flaws and loving ourselves for who we are but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to cut the bullshit and realize there are always aspects of yourself that need improving, just like there are always facets of the farm that need fixing. With this list, I want you to be really really honest with yourself. That is why I recommend writing it down. For some reason when we write, when our pen hits the paper, all the barriers of denial we so easily create come crashing down. I love that about writing. You can’t lie to yourself when you are writing. So write it down. And you don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. This can be a journey between you and yourself. All of the versions of you working together to come together to build one complete, whole self. However, if you are having trouble coming up with anything to work on, this might be a good time to bring in some back up. Sometimes asking the people closest to you what you need to work on can be very eye-opening, enlightening, and beneficial. It’s important to keep an open and clear mind when having these conversations though because sometimes it can really hurt to hear someone you love spurting off a list of your faults. But you just have to try to remember that you brought it up and they are telling you these things because they love you and they want you to be the best version of yourself just as much as you do. So you’ve made the list. Now what? Working on yourself is hard. How do we start? Where do we start? It is so easy to just ignore our own personal growth needs and focus on something else because we are taught to put everyone else around us first. I am not saying this is a bad thing to teach but sometimes it leads to the exclusion of teaching self care, and that, my friends, is a bad thing. In fact, some people will probably think that this much thought about oneself is narcissistic, or even unhealthy. But I wholeheartedly disagree. Self exploration is vital to our human existence. To start, I’d say look at your list and choose just one of the items on that list. One probably seems minuscule in the grand scheme of things. You’re probably thinking, “How could I possibly spend an entire season just thinking about one aspect of my personality? I know it seems like a bit much but it is so much easier to take this whole human growth thing one trait at a time. It is surprisingly hard and draining to mold yourself, so it needs repetition and time. And it needs thought and reflection. It cannot just be put on the shelf for another day. It needs consistent exploration and guess what, you have time for that in the winter! Once you have made the choice about what aspect of yourself you’d like to really hone in on, here comes the hard part. Force yourself to take baby steps. Like I said, patience and consistency will be your best friends. Just make a conscious effort to think about making the improvements, every day, just a little bit, and be happy with that. It’s okay if at the end of winter you haven’t bloomed into the flawless human you wanted to. It’s okay if you only made a little bit of progress. Do not lose hope in yourself. Even if it is just a little bit of growth, it is still something  of incredibly extreme value you can take away from the months you originally thought grew nothing but heat bills.   The post "How To Combat Cabin Fever Through Introspection" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.    

Cassie Langstraat

Cassie Langstraat

When a dirt Bike Ride Goes Down Hill

Okay, I'm a nut about motorcycles. Just ask my wife and she'll simply roll her eyes in confirmation. Like many riders, I started riding when I was a little kid on my hand-me-down Honda Trail 50 and it has been my passion ever since. It's been 30 years since first discovering this love of mine and luckily I've learned a few things along the way. One quickly realizes that if you want to continue your journey in this fantastic hobby, you will want to outfit yourself with the best protective gear you can afford. You also figure out that there are a few tools and emergency items you'll want to have along with you as well. I consider these statements to be pretty obvious ones and like to think I do pretty well to abide by them since we all know what happens when you don't. Right, Murphy's Law gives you a sly smirk and proceeds to promptly bite you in the ass as it is tasked to do. Unfortunately this past weekend I discovered that I am not above that law.    I am telling this quick story because it has to do with one of our products at 180 Tack, the BearLine+. I always carry my personal BearLine+ in the tail bag of my trail bike on any ride I go on. It's just there, just in case and not only because I am a co-founder of this company but because I truly value it as a tool not to be left at home. I dutifully point it out any chance I get to those who feign the slightest curiosity. We put the "+" sign at the end of the name because it is much more than your average hang-a-meal bear line. In my hobby, it's a life saver! No, of course I don't mean I'd actually parish without the BearLine+, but I would be stuck for a very long time off trail without it possibly wishing I could die as I struggle with the weight of my 400 lb motorcycle.    If you have ever lost your dirt bike or 4-wheeler over the side of a steep trail edge where the only way to continue on is to get your machine back on the trail, you know what I talking about. Frankly, it sucks! Even if you have a riding buddy with you to help work it back onto the trail, they are heavy and it's extremely exhausting. The BearLine+ is the absolute necessary tool to have with you in these situations.That's because this versatile system acts as a compact winch system because you can arrange the 500 lb test paracord and climbing-rated carabiners into a block & tackle system allowing you to easily hoist your machine back onto the trail.  The reason I bring up this weekend's ride is because it was the first time I failed to have my BearLine+ system on my bike and it was, of course, during this ride that we needed it. My riding buddy and I came around a corner to find another rider about 25 ft off the trail down a very steep embankment. He was already exhausted from trying to get his bike back up to the trail and he had only been there a few minutes. His rear tire was dug in and his bike was going nowhere. We fortunately did luck out in this particular situation because 4 other riders came across our little scene and were available to assist. Of course the first tongue-in-cheek question posed by one of those riders was "does anyone have a come-along?". You can imagine my frustration when I had to explain that "I own a company that manufactures this great product and if only I had it with me today, I could show you how well it works!" But I did not have it this day of course and could not demonstrate it. Luckily, between the multiple riders we had available, we were able to sweat and grunt to get the heavy bike back to the trail where it belonged. But, most of us also ride in places where we're not likely to run across 5 other riders to help us out of our predicament. So, by learning my lesson and posting this quick blog about it, I hope I've convinced you to take a hard look at your tools and emergency equipment you bring along with on your next adventure. The BearLine+ will always be in my tool kit from now on. No excuses will be tolerated! ~ Travis   You can find the 180 Tack BearLine+ by following this LINK Don't leave home without it.        

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

What Kind of Pan is Best for Backpacking?

All pan materials will work well with the 180 Stove.  Some are better for backpacking than others.  That said, here is a rundown of a little of our research.   Cast iron – too heavy for backpacking, but perhaps the best material for cooking.  It spreads the heat evenly, minimizes scorching, and some believe the healthiest material to eat from.  If pan metal “leaches” into the food, it is iron – a vitamin.   Aluminum – light and common as a backpacking pan.  There are lots of “unproven”  health concerns about eating from aluminum cookware especially when cooking acidic food like tomatoes, lemons, etc.  For simply boiling water, this is a minor concern.  But, this is one of the reasons our stoves are not made of aluminum.   Once the aluminum has been anodized, then this concern is mitigated significantly as long as the hard anodized layer is not scratched.  I do cook with anodized aluminum from time to time.       Stainless steel – thin stainless steel is great for backpacking; strong and light.  While it is possible for trace amounts of chromium to get into the food, this is minimal and not a real health concern.  This is my favorite backpacking cooking material.  It will scorch food more than some materials, however, but this is common for most thin backpacking pans.   Titanium is known to be one of the best materials to cook with as it is highly unreactive and does not leach metals into the food.   Pans with a larger diameter base heat water more quickly, as a rule, but they can take up space in the pack.  They have the added advantage of working better for cooking eggs and the like.  Our stoves are sturdy and have no issues cooking even with large, cast iron Dutch ovens.  Other backpacking stoves cannot do this.  They are simply too small and flimsy.       Make sure whatever you use comes with a good lid.  It speeds up boiling time and doubles for a plate or bowl.    One thing to keep in mind is that some natural fuels will coat the outside of the pan with creosote.  This is because the pan has cooler water or foods inside that allows the creosote to condense onto the pan.  This creosote causes no harm, and does not even stain the pack once it is cool.  It can be “cooked off” by heating an empty pan, but I usually don’t bother as it causes no issues.  However, I would not use my wife’s favorite pans when burning pine, especially….  Some people coat the outside of the pan with a little soap before cooking as it reduces the “smoking” of the pan.  Again, I don’t bother as the creosote is a non-issue to me.   And don't forget, the 180 Stove works well without a pan too as a packable grill.      Have fun!  Get out there!    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Latitude vs. Altitude

My family and I have lived in the Colorado Rockies at over 8000 above sea level for 17 years, with the last seven at nearly 9000 feet.  The years since we made the move here have been filled with unique experiences to say the least.  Life at altitude may seem commonplace to Buddhists in Nepal or Tibet.  There are some native tribes in the Andes of South America who have also lived for centuries at altitude.  But the existence that may seem ordinary to a Buddhist monk who was born, nurtured, and educated at 3000 meters above sea level is certainly full of surprises for those of us who learned of life at a lower altitude.  Wherever there is a great mountain range, one is sure to find interesting people who have adapted their ways of life to survive the challenging climates that embody the spirit of these high places.  But what about the outsiders?  What about the lowlanders?  These must learn the mountain crafts to last.    Respect is quickly won by the mountains from anyone who ventures to dwell among them.  The high places are both beautiful, and dangerous.  This environ can be fickle; changing abruptly from warm and inviting to cold and deadly.  A stroll over a high, dry rock can change in a heartbeat to a perilous scrambling over slick, wet, polished granite.  Visibility often changes from literally scores of miles to mere feet in a matter of minutes as dense clouds race through the trees and over the ridges.  The wind varies from screaming at over a hundred miles per hour to whispering in an eerie hush that almost sucks breath out of one’s lungs.  This silence can capture words leaving sentences hanging.  Words trail off into quieted, indistinguishable tones.  This is a land of variety.  This is a land that demands much of all living things.  Yes, it is absolutely beautiful.  It can be as comforting as a mother’s warm embrace.  But this world will turn on a person.  It often attempts to drive living things away; down to a lower realm where the biosphere is more predictable and safe.     We go to the mountains to find peace, freedom, privacy, happiness, and adventure.  These things may or may not be found, but one thing is certain.  No one lives for long at altitude without being changed.  Some attempt to force this world into submission.  They fail.  Either learn the ways of the peaks and adapt, or run.  And run many do.  Every summer dozens families make the move into the high places.  Every spring, dozens of for sale signs sprout from the earth as predictably as the aspen buds sprout from the naked white trees.  What is it about these mountains that draws people into them?  What is it about these mountains that drives these same people away?  What is it really like living at 8240?       It has been said that some change in altitude is equivalent to another change in latitude.  In other words, the world of the north is similar to the world of the heights.  There are some similarities.  Denver is well known as the Mile High City.  At 5280 feet, Denver is certainly one of the highest “large” cities.  Denver is at about the same latitude as Washington D.C., and Madrid, Spain.  Denver is even a couple of degrees south of Rome.  Still, the climate in Denver is much cooler and snowier than that of D.C. or Rome.  This is due primarily to altitude.  If Denver were at sea level, it would have to be located in Montana to have similar summer temperatures.    We moved from the Mile High City to the 60% higher world of 8240 feet.  For many years since our move, I have tried to predict the weather up here based on the Denver forecasts.  I have found two things to be true.  The temperatures at our home are usually about 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Denver, and if Denver is predicted to get a foot of snow, we are in for more than double that amount.  So where would that put our mountain home in terms of latitude at sea level?  Well, at least in the summer months, that would land us in the middle of Canada.   In the winter, the relationship between latitude and altitude do change somewhat.  In the winter at high latitudes, the nights are quite long, and Old Sol peaks weakly over the horizon.  At our latitude, the daylight hours certainly seem short, but we get several more hours of sunshine each day than our northern neighbors, and that at a more generous angle.  This moderates the cold somewhat, but the altitude still diminishes the temperatures.  Our winter temperatures are usually similar to those in Montana.       Another way to describe the climate at 8000+ feet is via the seasons.  Forget the calendar.  The first day of spring comes and goes here in the midst of the snowiest month of the year.  The snow that accumulates through the long winter does not melt off until May.  Except for crocuses, the wildflowers don’t flourish until the middle of June.  By these measures, spring comes to our elevation in late May.  If spring drags its feet up the slopes, the onslaught of winter seems to come crashing down from the higher peaks with an early gusto.  Snow can come in August.  It almost always shows up in September.  By the end of October, 8240 reliably provides snow that may not melt completely until spring.    This harsh, elongated winter season seems to be the primary cause of the spring exodus.  But, it is hardly the only defining quality of the climate at 8000+ feet.  Bring any lowlander to these heights, and the other characteristic of life at altitude becomes apparent with their first stroll across the property.  The thin air leaves the unaccustomed lungs gasping for a grip.  Doctors tell us that the first day or so is the worst.  The body acclimates to the thin air by producing more hemoglobin. This additional hemoglobin balances the lack of atmospheric pressure by carrying more oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body.  Adjustment continues for several more days, and one may not be completely at ease for over a month.   Altitude sickness does attack some at this elevation.  Having made a hobby out of climbing mountains, I am all too familiar with the early stages of this attack from the thin air.  It usually first shows up as a headache; a pain behind the eyes.  Soon one begins to lose a little equilibrium.  A misplaced foot here or an off-balanced stumble there is a sure sign of the next symptom.  Nausea.  The word reminds us of the one who wants to stop the sea.  Stop the rolling waves.  Oh please, stop this ground from rocking!  Following the cursing of the sea comes the heaving of the sailor.  This is the limit.  It is time to get thee to lower ground; to thicker air.  The fool hardy who do not heed this warning may find themselves with edema in the lungs or even brain.  Next comes a coma, and then the great beyond.  Luckily, few ever get much beyond the upset stomach at 8240.  Some experience no symptoms at all.     All of this may make living this high seem unattractive.  Don’t be deceived.  Life at altitude is a lifestyle, not only a location.  But what a lifestyle!  Consider sleeping in a house that will never have an air conditioner, and using winter blankets all summer long.  Imagine the pleasure of letting the sun saturate your skin on an average July morning and not breaking into a sweat.  Feel the crisp icy air that crystallizes the inside of your nose on a February afternoon.  It is invigorating!  Snow comes often in the winter, and it shrouds the destruction of humans.  All the scars that machines and tires and feet have cut into the terrain are erased by the snow.  The negligence of our species toward the earth is hidden for a season.  All is forgiven under a cover of fluffy white whisperings.  The snow comes lightly.  The snow comes silently.  It balances in clumps on deep green pine needles.  The world is transformed.  It smells different.  It looks perfectly clean.  On a sunny morning, a gentle breeze on a tree will create hundreds of tiny sparkling avalanches.  Each minuscule snow crystal acts as a prism refracting the suns golden rays into dozens of microscopic rainbows.  The combined effect is a symphony for the eyes.  I have seen such beauty, that I have had to close my eyes.  It is too rich to take in all at once.  I take a small bite of patterns and color, and then close my eyes to savor its uniqueness and flavor.  Then I open my eyes capture another sample of the visual feast.             The lifestyle required by these high peaks gives and takes.  But living here, close to nature, nourishes my soul.  Getting back to nature is a big part of what 180 Tack is about and our stoves embrace this approach by working with nature to cook naturally rather than burning processed fuels from foreign oil wells.  Being natural in nature just makes sense.  Get out there!  Have some fun!    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Be a Fire Guru – Wet Wood Fire

There are many skills that, while almost primordial, are neither known nor practiced by the majority in our modern world. These skills are fundamental to basic survival. While I am convinced that the most fundamental and necessary skill is that of building simple shelter, for comfort and long term survival, no skill is quite as rewarding as mastering reliable fire-building techniques that will work with a minimum of modern materials in all conditions—even in pouring down rain. While fire is low on my personal list of survival priorities, there is nothing like sitting around a nice fire enjoying the heat and light and the community that fire encourages. And when it comes to longer-term survival, fire becomes critical for sterilizing water and cooking.


Considering that I am co-owner of 180 Tack, LLC, the developers of the natural fuel 180 Stove and 180 VL, the knowledge of building reliable fires in all conditions is definitely a priority. We believe that our stoves offer the most reliable, compact, safe, environmentally conscious, portable cooking solution available. But the stoves are only as reliable as one’s ability to build a fire (or to use alternative fuel sources such as gel fuels or charcoal…).


So, come with me on a short journey; a journey that will reveal the primordial mystery of fire building. After reading this article and practicing these skills a few times, you will be able to join the ranks of the fire shaman. You will be the one who will start fires with ease when the rest of the neighborhood is ready to run to the convenience store to buy a fake wax log that promises a simple one-match fire. People will watch in awe as you illustrate the long lost mystery of the fire gods. Oooooh! Awe! Hurray!


Well…you may not become rich and famous by knowing these skills, but you very well may save an evening for your friends, provide a hot meal to those in need, or even possibly, save a life. But if none of those things happen, then at the very least, you will have the confidence that you are not among the fire ignorant. You will know that you can depend on yourself for this basic, worthwhile skill.


The following will cover fire making including tender, kindling, the proper way to arrange the wood, and a fantastic, reliable method for building a fire even when all the fuels are soaked. We will also talk about responsible use of fire and fire safety.


THREE THINGS

Three things are essential for any fire: air (oxygen), heat, and fuel. To start and maintain a fire, one must understand the interactions of these three things. Many inexperienced “would be” fire builders throw a bunch of sticks or logs in a pile and stick a match to the pile. After emptying their box of matches they either reach for gasoline or make that trip to the corner store to buy that fake wax log. WARNING! Don’t reach for gasoline to start a fire. It is not needed. It is very dangerous. There are safer ways to start a fire using volatile fuels, but I am going to keep those ways secret in this article. If you like your hair and skin, then just leave the gasoline out of the equation. As for that wax log, YOU DON’T NEED IT.

What you will need is some tender, kindling, dry wood, and to know how to stack the wood. I will cover starting a fire with wet wood in the next section. As a rule, the thicker the wood, the more heat will be required to get it to burn. This is because thick pieces of wood have a greater heat sink mass and less surface area. That means that the heat is absorbed/dissipated into the wood instead of igniting the wood, and the air can only reach the comparatively small surface area. Take that same chunk of wood and break it up into splinters, and the surface area increases hundreds of times over and the potential heat sink of each splinter is tiny. Stick a match to these splinters and the heat has fewer places to go and there is plenty of surface area exposed to the air. That is why a toothpick lights easily and a stick of firewood does not. As a rule, the smaller and more fibrous the fuel, the easier it will ignite.

Tender is finer still. The purpose of tender is to start a flame from a tiny coal or spark. If you are starting a fire with a match, then tender, while helpful, may not be necessary. Still, tender will expand a flame until it is large enough for the kindling to catch. In the woods, the best tender will be nests of very fine, very dry fibrous materials like fine wispy grasses, broken up cedar bark strands, milk weed fuzz, etc. If you have home resources at hand, then dryer lint or cotton balls with Vaseline worked into them work well. Surprisingly, steel wool can also make good tender and can be ignited with a 9-volt battery. To get a flame from a coal, make a nest about the size of your two hands together from tender, place the coal in the nest, and blow the coal gently until the tender ignites.

Kindling is composed of small pieces of fuel/wood that will catch and expand a flame. Kindling will range from toothpick sized up to twig sized, depending on how dry the fuel is. Larger sticks may be considered kindling but these will need smaller ones to grow the flame. Kindling does not burn long, but it burns quickly and hot enough to get those larger sticks of firewood started.

PROPER FIRE STACK

But what do we do with this stuff to get a fire going? Since heat rises, the tender needs to be under the kindling, and the kindling needs to be under the wood. But this will only work if there is enough space for air to get to the flames and not too much space to dissipate the heat. A single stick will rarely burn well, but two sticks an inch or two apart will capture each other’s heat and burn efficiently. Place the same two sticks too closely together and the fire will smother out. Understanding this is key to getting a fire to grow.

I prefer to stack my wood “log cabin” style with firewood-sized sticks separated by one to two inches. This stack can take full advantage of the tender/kindling and will grow quickly. Some like to prop the wood teepee style, which is nice for creating a hotter and taller flame, but I don’t like the way the wood tumbles as it burns, and it is harder to get the spacing correct.

Please be very careful if you use paper as kindling. Burning paper tends to escape a fire ring and float to places where fire is NOT wanted. Many forest fires have started this way resulting in the loss of thousands of acres of forest, homes by the hundreds, and even lives. Likewise, burning trash in a fire is really not a good idea.
WET WOOD FIRE

Above I stated that fuels need to be dry to start a fire. So what does one do if all the available fuel has been soaked by rain or snow? There is no great trick to this. But it does require a decent-sized knife. Wood that is wet on the outside, even wood that has been soaking in water for days, will be dry on the inside. All one needs is to get under some shelter to keep the wood dry, and split the wood into tender and kindling sizes. Well-seasoned (dead) wood will work best for this. The following pictures show this process.   Making a wet wood fire requires wet wood. Just to prove the point, I am soaking an aspen stick.  
Even though the stick is soaking wet, there is still dry wood on the inside.  

Using a decent knife and a second stick as baton, split the stick. You will need split sticks thumb-sized, pencil-sized, and toothpick-sized. Split more than you think you may need. You can always use the extra wood later, but running out of this kindling when building a fire can be disheartening. Be sure to use some sort of base plate to keep the stick out of the mud, and to protect your knife from dulling in the dirt.  
When the wood is small enough, it can be split simply by forcing the blade into the wood and twisting.  
Once there is a generous collection of thumb, pencil, and toothpick sized dry fuel. then if you have some tender or even just a match, you are ready to start the fire. If you do not have tender, then you will need to make some by first cutting some shavings from the wood and then making some sawdust by scraping the dry stick.  
Making scrapings. The scrapings will catch a spark from fire steel to create a small flame. Use this flame to light the shavings, and then the toothpicks, pencils, and finally thumb-sized wood.  
Getting ready to ignite the scrapings. Make a tall, loose pile. Notice the prop stick. This is used to support the weight of the shavings and other wood so the pile stays airy and the fire is not smothered out.  
Igniting the scrapings using fire steel.  
Carefully adding shavings, and then larger sticks. The young flame is fragile. Be careful to use the prop stick to support the fuel so you don’t smother the flame.  
Finally adding the thumb-sized sticks. Almost ready to cook!  
The 180 Stove is placed over the fire, and more wood can be added as needed through the open end (facing away from the camera). Ready to cook, even when all the fuel was wet.

RESPONSIBLE AND SAFE FIRES

Knowing how to be responsible with fire in the wilderness is a critical prerequisite for anyone who wants to camp, hike, or live in the woods. Fire can be friend or foe. Responsibility does not only include fire safety to prevent forest fires and personal injury. Abusing the wilderness with fire proves one is immature and has little understanding of, or respect for nature. This type of abuse is all too common and includes such things as making over-sized fires, creating multiple fire rings in one locale, scorching trees or other plants, using a fire pit as a trash can, melting cans, bottles, and plastics and leaving them, failing to put out fires completely, leaving a fire unattended, building fires too close to surface water, and the list goes on and on.

When camping, use existing fire rings and scatter extra ones. Pack out trash left by others. Leave nature better than you found it. If you are in an area where there is no fire ring, then consider using fire practices that respect nature. One of the biggest mistakes is making the fire too large. Small fires use less wood, create less smoke, leave smaller scars, and are much easier to use for cooking. And small fires provide comforting heat and light that does not force campers to stand ten feet away.

Better yet, use a 180 Stove to contain your small fire and maximize your cooking. With the 180 Stove you can cook or boil water using only a handful of twigs. The cooking platform keeps the pan close to the flames and reflects the heat onto the pan. The stove is lighter than carrying a backpacking stove with fuel, and more compact as well. If you are not using the 180 Two-Piece Snow and Ash Pan, then scrape a little soil to the side, cook, douse, and then cover. This way no scars are left on the land. In more delicate areas or for cooking on snow, use the ash pan.

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Resilience and Re-Patterning

As we walk down the path towards individual freedom and liberty, it is critical that we take time to reflect not only on the successes we experience but the failures as well.  This process is not so much a focus on failure as it is recognition of the processes necessary to learn, adapt, and overcome. A significant number of new business start-ups fail.  The Small Business Administration writes:  “Census data report that 69 percent of new employer establishments born to new firms in 2000 survived at least 2 years, and 51 percent survived 5 or more years.”  Eric Wagner, a contributor for Forbes magazine, writes that “…8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months.” This article is not to debate the statistics of failure, but rather to focus on resilience. Being resilient is one of the most important qualities one can have, especially if you have chosen to walk the path towards individual freedom and liberty.  As a matter of fact, I believe that it is our inherent resilience that allows us to make the choice to walk this beautiful path. With that said…why is it that so many people continue to conform to the restraints that society places upon us through various avenues such as the media, education system, political correctness, etc? One of the primary reasons people continue to conform to these sets of standards is fear.  Our society has been conditioned to believe that it is not normal to think outside of the box.  We have been led to believe that living life a certain way is the desirable way to live.  More often than not, the way that we are living is not the way we truly wish to live.  At what point in your life did you reach this realization? Moreover, when you finally did reach this realization – what did you do to change your reality?  I suspect that there are plenty of times where people reach this conclusion, but actually taking a step towards making a change can be terrifying.  We don’t know where to begin.  Furthermore, when we decide to take that first step…we often find ourselves walking on a road less traveled. There comes a time, where we cross paths with another person who is actively changing their reality.
“Comes a time when the blind man takes your hand…Says, ‘Don't you see?’” We begin to see.  We begin to wake up.  We begin to see that making that change is not only possible…but we begin to understand that making the change and experience the challenges that come along with living a life on these terms can be gratifying.  We regain our humanity.   Change is not easy, though.  For many of us, we’ve spent a lifetime developing habits.  We have developed behavior patterns over decades.  It is no small feat to begin re-patterning our behavior.  However, it can be done.  It all begins with the decision to act upon the thought that sometimes creeps in at the most unexpected times…yet never leaves once it enters your gray matter.  This very thought is what we ultimately desire to be.  These thoughts are resilient. The last article I wrote for Brink of Freedom was titled, Growing and Cloning Blueberries 101, Part 2.   At the time I wrote this article, springtime was underway and my cloning experiment ultimately failed.  As a matter of fact, it was a colossal failure!  Looking back and reflecting on the cloning experiment back in May, there are a number of reasons why it wasn’t successful – none of which are really relevant at this point in time.  The important thing is that when I finally realized that the experiment was unsuccessful – I chalked it up as a learning experience and simply kept moving forward. There were too many other things at stake for me to get hung up on one element of my life not working out the way in which I had hoped.  Failure is a critical part of success…though we have been led to believe differently.  As Pauline Estrem writes in an article titled, Why Failure Is Good for Success: “Society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books. The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. ‘How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?’ a reporter asked.  ‘I didn’t fail 1,000 times,’ Edison responded. ‘The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.’” The reality is that life is full of failure.  This isn’t an inherently negative observation…but it is reality.  If you read the statement “…life is full of failure” as a negative statement, this simply validates the observation that we have spent a lifetime developing behavior and thought patterns that encourage us to see this as a negative.  When we begin to reframe our reality and see it with a different perspective, we begin to see the truth that while reality is full of failure, reality is also full of success.  We also begin to experience more success when we realize that the resiliency of re-patterning. My initial thought was to take the time and write about the various steps I have taken to re-pattern my life, but I have decided against it.  This article went down a path I did not expect it to when I began writing, which seems even more appropriate, given the content of the article.  However, I do want to stress that the change in our lives begins with the realization and understanding that resilience is key. May we all begin to embrace the failures in life and view them as one of the thousands of steps towards success.  Let us understand that both our successes and failures will help us learn, adapt and overcome the challenges we all experience in life.  May we begin re-patterning our thought processes in order to reframe reality with the understanding that doing so will allow us to view life with a different perspective.  This will truly allow us to more effectively walk down the path towards individual freedom and liberty.        

Rob Kaiser

Rob Kaiser

Your "Sixth Sense" Security System

Did you realize that one of your most effective and least used defensive tools is one you were born with? It’s called your “intuition” or “sixth sense”. When it comes to danger, intuition is always right in two important ways: First, it is always in response to something you should pay attention to and secondly, your intuition ALWAYS guides you toward what’s in your best interest. Unlike worry, intuition will not waste your time. Learning to “trust your gut” and not doubting it will be your top safety skill. Some of the messengers of intuition are nagging feelings, persistent thoughts, humor, wonder, anxiety, curiosity, hunches, gut feelings, doubt, hesitation, suspicion, apprehension and fear. Have you ever used your “gut feelings” or intuition in your life? I bet you have many times even though you maybe didn’t have the rational evidence to support your feelings at the time. Science has proven that the physical body you see is only .0001% physical matter and the remaining 99.9999% is energy. Isn’t that profound!?! That’s why “thoughts become things” and the reason that we can pick up on someone's good or bad “energy”. In relating this to situational awareness, we get in trouble when we ignore our instincts and start judging on appearance or how nice someone appears to be. Once again, don't judge somebody on how he or she appears or his or her esthetics. In post attack interviews, victims report they had a “bad feeling” but then they judged the person and “thought it would be ok”. They all said in retrospect that they should have trusted their initial feelings. I highly recommended reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. This is literally a book that could save your life where you learn about intuition and predicting human behavior. Humans ARE predictable, and we can learn to read the clues and behaviors to help keep us safe. Our intuition knows more about the situation than we are consciously aware of. Intuition, based in our super powerful subconscious mind, can record far more than we can consciously be aware of. It can record details of an encounter that we don’t even realize. It can also pick up on energy that scientists don’t even fully understand and try to communicate the unseen and unknown to us in a very subtle, but effective way. An exercise in the book, The Gift of Fear, is to help you predict human behavior by using what’s known as “contrasting options”. This is a very powerful assessment tool that you can use in nearly any scenario. “Contrasting options” is when you force yourself to not only assume the good, but force you to assume possible bad as well. Here’s an example: You are in a parking lot and approached by a stranger who offers to help load your groceries. Try to come up with predictions about the man offering to help you with your groceries in your head using “contrasting options”.  Lets see how this mentally plays out: Is he A: A member of a volunteer group whose mission is to patrol parking lots in search of women to help? Or B: A man who has some sexual interest in you? Another example is this: A man is walking slowly on the sidewalk, but then he sees you and picks up the pace and walks straight at you. He asks you for the time because… Option A: He doesn’t have a watch or phone and no one else on the sidewalk can help him with the time, but YOU. Or Option B: He is just asking you a question to distract you before he takes your purse. Remember this is called the “interview” and helps him test the waters of your awareness. I know there are a lot of nice people in the world who do like to help others and that’s great, but just know that this is a common tactic used by a predator. It is better to assume ill intent and be safe than it is to be nice and a victim. Just think about it? Who has time to loiter in parking lots just to help people? Why did he pick you? Do you look like you can’t pick up your groceries? Remember to use the “contrasting options” on assessing human behavior and it will really help you see the truth. The knowledge of common tactics used by criminals will help reduce risk by learning what risk looks like. The common criminal is an expert at keeping his victim from seeing survival signals and uses common tactics such as forced teaming, charm and niceness, too many details, typecasting, loan sharking, the unsolicited promise, and discounting the word “no”. Forced teaming is an effective way to establish trust by someone relating to you. The detectable sign of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose where none exists. “WE can get this done faster if I help you.” “WE’RE on the same team.” “Let me help you with your groceries so we can get out of this bad weather…. Charm and niceness is another tactic used and to charm is to compel and control by allure or attraction. Is the person trying to charm you or is the person charming? There is a huge difference. One way to charm is with a smile. Remember what the famous Voltaire said: minds differ still more than faces. People who want to deceive you will often use too many details. When people tell the truth they don’t feel doubted so they don’t feel the need for additional support with more details. When people lie, it doesn’t sound credible to them, so they keep talking. Typecasting is when you feel compelled to prove an opinion is not accurate. For instance, if someone says to you, “You’re probably too pretty to talk to a person like me.” It’s just a slight insult that makes you want to answer the person and it disproves their comment. It is a way for the predator to get your attention to start talking with him. Loan Sharking is when someone helps you and then you feel like you need to help that person in return. Remember, he or she approached you and offered help and you didn’t ask for any help. Don’t let them guilt you into anything. The unsolicited promise is used quite often and helps gain trust. “Let me help you with those big packages. I will just carry them in your front door and be gone. I promise!!” Why does he need to use the word promise? Watch out for this one if a stranger ever says promise to you. Anyone that discounts your “no” at all is someone that you do not want to deal with. If they ignore it even once and try to talk you out of it then beware of what lies ahead. Take the time and learn to spot the danger signals and it might just save your life. Please read The Gift of Fear and learn the difference between true fear and unwarranted fear. True fear will save your life and unwarranted fear is a curse and will cause undue stress in your life. You too can become an expert at predicting violent behavior if you use your brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of dangers and guides you through scary situations.

Beth Warford

Beth Warford

Three Years With My Plate Carrier

My time in the Service as well as with San Jose Police Department didn’t leave room for much personal choice with respect to body armor. As I transitioned into the private sector, my choice for body armor and most any other personal equipment was wide open. While they do issue kit if you don’t have your own, I have found many shortcomings in the issued gear, which I have attempted to address with personal gear. The issued plate carriers are trash. Overall a very poor design. One of the issues they have is being overly heavy. Overbuilt with heavy 1000 denier nylon. Not because of high wear or stress areas, just because someone thought bigger is better. Another issue is the overuse of plastic buckles. Rather than a cummerbund, there is a 2” piece of webbing with a large plastic slide release buckle which secures the front and rear plate pocket on either side. These buckles are also used to connect the shoulder straps to the front plate pocket. And in doing so, they put a big hard piece of plastic right where you would ideally shoulder your rifle. Nothing about them was well designed, which is probably why the company that manufactured them is no longer in the tactical nylon business… With these as well as other overarching problems in mind, like comfort, I began my search for a plate carrier for work. This is something I was going to spend a lot of time in and has the potential to be life saving, so I took my search seriously. I finally settled on the Crye Precision Jumpable Plate Carrier (JPC). It was fairly new to the market at the time (early 2011), having been out for less than a year. I read what little I could on it and like many things on the internet, ordered it without having a chance to see it in person. When I got back stateside and had a chance to handle it, I was pleased to find that I had made a good choice. The thing that strikes you immediately is how light the plate carrier is. The medium plate carrier (sized for 10”x12” plates) weighs only 1.3 lbs. This light weight is achieved by using newer textile technologies such as Hypalon. Every detail of the design seems very well thought out. Integrated into the front of the carrier is a triple mag pouch which features bungee retention in addition to a panel of female velcro across the interior of the magazine pouch. This allows you to affix small male Velcro patches (which come with the carrier) to your magazine for extra retention or in place of the bungee retention, as well as the ability to velcro the entire integrated mag pouch closed for a lower profile. Personally, I keep the integrated mag pouch closed and run a Blue Force Gear triple mag pouch across the front, keeping a fairly low profile (allowing me to shoot from the prone) but still having the option of putting a total of 6 magazines on my carrier if needed. Also built into the top front of the plate carrier is an administrative pouch. Within it are three elastic loops allowing for the separation of items vertically. While the manufacturer’s photos show pistol magazines being held in this pouch, I found it to not only made for awkward and slow reloads, but the thickness of the magazines does not lend itself to being at all comfortable. I keep in my admin pouch 3 chem lights, some ear plugs, spare battery for NODs and a sharpie marker. One of the big selling points for me is the low-profile cummerbund. It is essentially skeletonized molle webbing with stiffeners integrated into it so that you can attach pouches or side plates/armor to it. The design is a life saver in the unrelenting summer heat of the middle east. And the real bonus, due to its sleek design, is it does not interfere with drawing your pistol. The shoulder straps are made of Hypalon, an incredibly durable and light space age material. The straps are all independent from one another. The two straps attached to the front plate pouch are sewn with female velcro and the straps on the rear plate pouch with male velcro. The straps are then cross sewn as well. So when you go to fit the carrier, you can cut off the extra length of shoulder straps and the stitching will not come undone. *A note on fitting this or any plate carrier. Ideally, you want to be able to reach your chin down and touch the top of the front plate while wearing the carrier. If you can’t, it is too low and leaves your aortic arch exposed. I am not a doctor, but I can tell you that it is a much more vital area than your belly button… Don’t let your plate carrier sag down over your stomach, the vital stuff is up high* The comfort of the plate carrier is awesome, or as awesome as 20 or so pounds can be strapped to your chest. While the shoulder straps aren’t padded, they are fairly wide and firm and don’t dig into your shoulders like some do. The low-profile shoulder straps allow for a much more natural and consistent shouldering of your rifle. No big plastic buckles or thick straps to contend with while shooting. Some of the comfort also comes from the way the cummerbund is attached. On the rear of the carrier, the cummerbund is attached to the rear plate pouch with a thick shock (bungee) cord. This allows you to put the plate carrier on fairly snug, but when you move or begin to breathe heavy there is play and it moves with your chest. The comfort and movement in the carrier, especially when breathing heavy is very much appreciated. Along with all the training, shooting and general use I have put this plate carrier through in the last 3 years, I have also done the Crossfit workout “Murph” in it a couple of times. The workout is a 1-mile run followed by 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats and another 1-mile run. All of this done with a 20-pound vest, in my case the Crye JPC. This carrier really moves with your body. In the last 3 years, I have only found two detractors of the design and both were easily overcome with a little ingenuity. First, if you still happen to be running an old school M4 stock on your rifle, with the metal sling attachment point… It can slip into the cutaway section of the Hypalon strap when shouldering your weapon. This is fixed by removing that worthless metal piece with a screw driver or upgrading to a decent stock for your rifle. The second issue which I have experience with and have observed in others with the same plate carrier is that the shock cord is somewhat slick and the knots you put in the cord, with time, will work themselves out. This is easily addressed with wrapping your knots with tape once they are properly adjusted. Something to keep in mind should you order one is the sizing. The sizing is directly related to the size of the plate. We run 10” x 12” plates, which corresponds to size a Medium carrier. The plate pocket is made with panels of stretch material that allows a snug fit for the proper sized plate, with or without plate backers. The shoulder straps and cummerbund will accommodate any size person regardless of height or weight. So size appropriately for the size of your plates you intend to use with the system. In the last 3 years of use, a solid half of which was deployed using this carrier, I have had no issues to speak of. All materials and stitching have held up great. None of the velcro has worn out or become unusable. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate the Crye Precision Jumpable Plate Carrier a solid 9. And only then because of the very minor issues which I mentioned above. It works as advertised, is incredibly reliable, easy to put on and take off and it comes packed with features for a very fair price of $248.80 full retail from their site. (When comparing prices with other plate carriers, keep in mind this carrier has an integrated triple magazine pouch, allowing it to effectively be used right out of the box without any extra pouches) Should you be in the market for a carrier you can’t go wrong with the Crye JPC. If I needed a new plate carrier tomorrow, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase one again. Stay armed and stay proficient… Ivan  

Ivan Loomis

Ivan Loomis

New Gear

So, what I really need is another holster… Once you get into shooting, you will find a large amount of money turns into a large amount of unused gear. For better or worse, it seems to go this way. No matter how much you “learn” online, experience with that piece of gear in hand trumps all. There is a lot to be said for researching gear before you purchase it though. Where you find this information is paramount as well. While a lot of sites offer gear reviews, I find I have to sift through quite a few different sites to find what I am looking for. One of the better sites I have found is SKD Tactical, at www.skdtac.com . They tend to have some pretty good reviews posted on a fairly good assortment of gear. Another source, which can be hit or miss at times, is on Amazon, amazon.com. Amazon is slowly carrying more and more tactical gear, and with that, they are getting more reviews up. YouTube video reviews are hit and miss. Some people put out some good quality information in well-made videos. And then there is the rest of YouTube… Unfortunately, in the world of tactical gear, like other disciplines, there isn’t “one way.” There isn’t one holster, there isn’t one sling, there is no one size fits all. Competition breeds innovation, as does necessity. Coming out of two prolonged wars, we have some amazing gear available to us. With respect to holsters, or any other piece of gear, keep something in mind. The requirement drives the gear selection. No matter how super-ninja-bleeding-edge-tactical some piece of gear is, it does nothing if it can’t help you. Let your requirement dictate your purchases. As an example, in the Marine Corps, my choice in body armor was made for me. As a Police Officer, it was pretty straight forward what kind of holster I would use. We had a department policy that stated you will use, “X Y or Z.” While working in the private security sector, aside from some very vague requirements, the choice was wide open. Pulling on past experience, I was able to make informed decisions on what I would like, or more to the point, what I wouldn’t like. One of the most useful things we can glean from purchasing gear is what that piece of gear doesn’t do for us. A box full of abandoned gear should serve to teach us some lessons. Even after purchasing your newly researched piece of gear, ready to fill an unforeseen need which your old piece of gear pointed out to you, you aren’t out of the woods. Now you need to run it, hard… No professional straps on a new piece of gear and jumps into the thick of it. Put the gear through its paces. The most useful place I have found for this is usually in shooting courses. A three-day pistol or rifle class will serve to not only hone your skills but also to show you all the flaws in your gear set up. With most things, you will find it is a trade off. For me personally on my work set up, I run Blue Force Gear pistol and rifle mag pouches. While training with them, I realized what some would find to be a deal breaker. When a magazine is removed from the pouches, they, for the most part, fall flat. In doing so, this can make it more difficult to replace a magazine one-handed (such as when performing a tactical reload and retaining the partial magazine). While for some this may be a no-go, it was an advantage to me. I like the ability to remove magazines and have the entire belt set-up get smaller. If I want to remove some unneeded pieces of gear, I now have a smaller footprint, rather than still maintaining rigid boxes for my mag pouches. Only through use will some things be revealed. On a side note with respect to training classes… A real benefit is the collective pool of knowledge that attends the class. Take time to check out other people's gear, ask how it preforms, what they do and don’t like about it. Maybe use it for a few drills if possible. Ultimately you will be hard pressed to avoid purchases that end up being set aside, but make the most out of those. Learn from them and refine what works for you. As you progress as a shooter, your needs will change. Analyze your requirements and proceed from there. Stay armed and stay proficient…

Ivan Loomis

Ivan Loomis

Safety as a Psychology Lesson

“Mom! Get over here and look at all the police cars at Ryan’s house! I wonder what he did to get in that much trouble!” Ryan’s father was shot at first, but he managed to escape and ran outside leaving the family behind.  I listened to my best friend describe how his Mom begged for her life and she was still shot in the head. Ryan hid in his closet and his little sister slept in her bed with the door open and was unharmed. The murderer went on that night to kill his wife and two other people. He happened to be a junior high school teacher and had children of his own. This all happened in a small town in ND. I was eight years old, and Ryan was my best friend that lived in the house across the street. I still remember seeing the bullet holes in the glass and walking through the house as he explained the story. My family didn’t talk about the murder much other than it was a tragedy. I was just beginning to learn about death on a different level, but I knew I would never see Ryan’s mom again. This began the uncomfortable feeling of being afraid for my own safety and I didn’t feel safe in my own home anymore. We’ll all agree this isn’t a desirable step in any child’s development. Years later, I saw how my extreme fear paralyzed me for a long time. I started to have violent nightmares and started sleep walking often. I was afraid to be left home alone; and even when I was a teenager I would hide in my closet until my parents returned home. It was rather embarrassing and extremely boring to go with my parents to Pinochle parties at the age of 14 because I didn’t want to be left home alone. When I first started dating John, who is now my husband, he couldn’t believe the fear and anxiety I had. He felt compelled to help me face my fears by empowering myself. He had a very different childhood experience than I did and it showed. He didn’t witness any murder scenes and being a boy probably helped. Growing into more of an alpha male type didn’t hurt his confidence in securing his own safety either. What’s ironic is that these differences between us were mostly due to chance and circumstance. After careful consideration, John suggested I buy a Glock 19 and took me out to shoot the gun over and over until I was comfortable and confident. We both got our Concealed Carry permits and I got some relief from fear for the first time in over 12 years. Fast forward to the present: analysis of fear, predators, psychopaths, and the conquering of them all has become my mission. I am no longer hiding from my fears; I am using my past experiences to fuel my passion for teaching many women and men about fear, psychopaths, and how to use that knowledge to inspire the development of one’s personal safety skills. Fear is a biochemical, powerful, and primitive emotion that alerts us to the presence of danger. The biochemical reaction is evolutionary and is our body’s automatic response and is crucial to survive. This is known as the “fight or flight” response and prepares our body to fight or run away. Fear is critical for your safety because it alerts you to taking action, whether you know it or not. An example would be fear putting your body into hyper drive as a car is speeding toward you so you can get out of the way. You have a powerful tool inside of you called instincts and I feel it is the best tool for survival. Our ancestors used them and that is why we are here today. Gavin De Becker is the author of The Gift of Fear and he teaches how our own intuition can protect us from violence. This book is simply brilliant and will teach many lessons on your “sixth sense”. The emotional response to fear is highly personalized and this is usually a perceived fear, but our bodies are not in immediate danger. This is the type of fear that I developed and many others have and it can be debilitating to leading a healthy life. When I was a young child, it didn’t take long to realize that evil people existed in the world. My parents and teachers often talked about violence, but they didn’t teach the real world skills necessary for safety. That’s like teaching you to look at the math problem without teaching you how to figure out the answer! That was 32 years ago and I don’t think many talked about self-defense, but I feel like the schools and universities are still failing us on this subject. If we are taught anything about safety needs, it is often a brief section in Psychology classes. We learned in Psychology about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the base of the pyramid being Physiological Needs followed by Safety Needs as the next level up. The summit is Self-Actualization, what we all strive to achieve. Maslow postulated that you can not leave a lower level of the pyramid and achieve the next without that psychological need being met. It makes sense. You’re not going to be concerned about your safety if you don’t have water to survive and you will never get to your best potential if you’re concerned about more important things, like your safety and security.  According to Maslow, as people satisfy their most basic physical and emotional needs first, they become more and more concerned with their higher needs. We need to feel safe in order to make it to the higher levels (love and belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization) if we don’t have the basic needs to survive physically or the security to allow us to progress higher. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., is the Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy (www.ChildTrauma.org) in Houston and he talks a lot about a child needing to feel safe and secure in order to begin building skills. He concluded that the lack of safety literally changes brain development in children. This is very significant! We all get this intuitively: our desire to feel safe is a basic human need. I feel, in light of today’s economic situation and world events, it is important to pay more attention to Abraham Maslow’s ideas more than ever before. Look at the areas of the worst conflict, and apply Maslow’s Pyramid to the social situations there. You’ll see the conflicts in a whole new light. For a more psychological explanation of the need for safety and self-defense we look to the famous psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, who taught us that human instincts could be divided into two categories: “Those which seek to preserve and unite, and those which seek to destroy and kill.” The classic “good versus evil” after all. You may be a “preserve and unite” kind of person, but don’t forget the “seek to destroy and kill” lurking out there. Did the schools you attended offer Self-Defense 101 or Predators 210? Did they teach you that in order to take advantage of your diploma (and be a life long learner?) you’d need to stay safe and survive? My schools didn’t, nor did they teach me how to grow my own food or start a fire without matches either (which is entirely another issue!). I am on a mission to teach and empower people to take responsibility for their own safety, whether you are an 8th grader or an “older than average” student. I suggest you find such a teacher to fill that need. Whether you know it or not, missing the skills to protect yourself causes levels of fear and anxiety that can paralyze you, keeping you from living the life of your dreams, and, if chronic enough, a stress that can affect your physical health as well. Why are so many Americans fearful and anxious about their safety? Maybe it’s because us civilized Americans have a murder rate that is ten times that of any other Western nation. Perhaps it is because our citizens kill women and children with an alarming frequency. There is a real culture of violence, rage and hate in this country and no one, and I mean no one, is immune or untouched by it, no matter how tight you snuggle under the blanket of denial. I could talk all day about statistics on violence that may or may not scare you, but the truth is that your safety lies in your hands. You cannot rely on the US government or police department to protect you at all times. Just this week I stayed at a friend’s house that was at least 20 minutes away from the nearest police station. Think the bad guys know that? I don’t care if you have a “protected by an alarm system” sticker on your door, the bad guys can do very basic math and know that 20 minutes is plenty of time to do many tragic things. Don’t kid yourself into a false sense of security; it may be the worst miscalculation of your life. You are responsible for your safety and as I’ve said before; YOU ARE THE FIRST RESPONDER. Some experts claim that only one in one hundred people ever make it to the top of Maslow’s pyramid. Maybe you could have higher self-esteem or an increased sense of self-actualization if you didn’t have that anxiety all day about someone harming you. Heck, it would be a good start, wouldn’t it? You will continue to stress if you run from your self-inflicting fears and not address them, thus decreasing your ability to grow into your fullest potential. A more positive conclusion can be had, of course. Build some confidence and fight back against the evil. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be the one who wants to preserve and unite and fight for those who can’t protect themselves. Learn a skill and be happier. Be your own well-trained, highly skilled security guard. What is in store for your life if you really addressed Maslow’s needs and were honest about them? I am 40 years old and feel like I’ve fulfilled all of Maslow’s needs, but am still advancing and improving upon my progress in each area the more I learn. You can too, of course, and that’s my hope for your future. Start with getting an Advanced Degree in “How to Kick a Bad Guy’s Ass” and you’re well on the way to the top!

Beth Warford

Beth Warford

 

O’Brien's Fence Reel & Treadaline Step-In Post

Back when we first began grazing cattle, it was the most labor intensive part of our day.  We would painstakingly tear down and set up portable electric netting for our cattle, move a solar energizer, and layout as much garden hose as required to water them.  And we did this every single day!  Thankfully, our business has come a long way since 2011 when we were last doing that for our cattle.  You do what you must to pave the way for smoother sailing, and crawl before you walk.  The growth of our business has allowed us to invest into infrastructure which now makes moving cattle the quickest, easiest and most enjoyable part of our day. While building lots of permanent fence and putting in buried water were the big tasks to make our job easier, the day to day tools that have been useful are the portable reels and fence posts.  These simple items can quickly subdivide your larger grazing areas into small paddocks for the daily rotation of livestock.  Daily rotation is a key management practice used to really keep your grasses in that fast growth stage, which will fatten up your cattle the quickest, and make you the most money per acre.  We like to have 30-45 days of rest on a grazing area before we hit it again.  By using the portable posts and reels, we can quickly size up or scale down our paddock sizes to meet the current demand of our herd, grass conditions, future grazing needs, etc.  These tools are excellent for this task, and have proven themselves the last two and half seasons on our farm. First up is the O’Brien Fence Reel.  While you have several choices to pick from, it basically boils down to a geared reel or non-geared reel, with several variations there of.  In short, a 3:1 “geared” reel will turn three times for every one crank of the handle.  A “non-geared”, or “standard” reel, is 1:1 and turns one rotation per one crank of the handle.  We started in early 2012 with the 3:1 geared reels because the 1:1 geared reels were out of stock from a local farm store.  As an aside, I was told I didn’t need a 3:1 reel unless I was going to drop the wire on the ground, stand stationary, and reel it up quickly.  I’ve used the O’Brien 3:1 reels the last two and a half years and absolutely love them.  They are very well built, durable and do the job well.  I’ve dropped them, run over them, tossed them around like a rental, and they are still ticking.  You can feel the heft and quality in this unit the moment you pick it up.  It will also hold nearly 1,400 feet of portable electrified fence wire (twine) which is very handy when moving animals long distances. This Spring, my favorite online farm store (Kencove Fence Co.) was out of the stock on the 3:1 reels from O’Brien (and as far as I can tell, as of this writing, has dropped those completely in favor of a Stafix brand 3:1 standard sized reel).  Not giving it much thought, I ordered three of the 1:1 O’Brien reels.  Well, evidently that advice I was given about not needing the 3:1 reels was bad!  I guess I must walk pretty fast when reeling up fence wire because I figured out pretty quick that I really prefer the 3:1 reels much more than the 1:1.  I won’t say I hate the 1:1 reels, but I do dislike them very much.  I find that I have to walk much slower when winding these, which slows me down, and it’s also harder to keep the wire taught on the reel (which is a big deal when winding wire).  I also feel that the 1:1 reels are a lot flimsier in construction than the 3:1 reels.  They are not as well balanced with the wire on them and I can often feel them “wobble” significantly from side to side when reeling.  In short, for about $10 more, stick with a 3:1 geared reel from O’Brien.  And while I can’t comment on the Stafix reels Kencove now carries, I do recommend the Stafix 9 wire electric twine for your reels from Kencove. Concerning Kencove, I’ve generally been really happy with them and recommend them highly to anyone.  However, I recently had a frustrating experience with them when buying the 1:1 reels.  The 3:1 reels come with a plastic gate handle that ties off your loose electric wire and connects to your high tensile fence.  Not thinking about this, I ordered the 1:1 reels and they showed up without these handles.  With no handle, they are worthless equipment!  I called Kencove to let them now they forgot my handles, only to be told you have to order those separately on the 1:1 reels.  They cost a whooping . cents each, but cost me an additional $7 in shipping and a boat load of frustration in the interim while waiting on them.  I still love Kencove, but I let them know in no uncertain terms they either need to warn you when ordering to add the handle or to simply add $1 to the cost of the reel and add the handle as standard!  Be forewarned if you order from them to include the handle if you get the 1:1 reel.  It’s product number “GPL” on their website, and don’t forget the jumper leads to connect your reel to your electric fence! Next up is the O’Brien treadaline step-in fence post.  Let me say up front that I first heard about these posts from a very well known grazer:  Greg Judy.  Greg once commented in a seminar I attended that he had bought every different step-in fence post style and brand known to man.  He also said that everything except the treadaline posts were laying unused and/or broken in a pile in the corner of his barn.  When a guy like Greg Judy speaks, you listen! The treadaline posts are expensive (about $4/post shipped if you buy a box of 50 from Kencove) but man do they work.  And they last!  To be frank, I’m hard on equipment and I’ve yet to bust one of these posts – some are a little bent and twisted, but still working just fine.  You can literally bend one around your knee into a u-shape and it will not break.  What really makes these things tick however is the extra long spike on the bottom that goes into the ground.  A small detail, but big difference in quality can be noticed by how far up into the post the spike goes.  It’s a good 2″ longer than most, and goes above the “step” you place your foot on to drive it into the ground.  This keeps it from breaking off like many other posts, rendering it a piece of junk for the corner in your barn.  Add to that the versatility of 4 electric tape clips on one side, and 8 electric twine hooks on the other and you have a winning product.   You can also use these posts for cattle, sheep, pigs, etc.  If you know much about me, you know that I like equipment that has multiple uses (function stacking) and this post fits that bill.  Personally, I like spending my money on stuff that will take real world farm abuse and keep on ticking.  The O’Brien treadaline posts meet the challenge and is worth twice the cost of a cheap post at your local farm supply store.  You get what you pay for, and no doubt this will fail on you at the worst possible time:  When you are using it for its intended purpose! Remember when buying any equipment, you can’t “unbuy” it.  And it’s better to buy something that will last versus something that is cheap and will need to be replaced.  I hope you find this review helpful and the equipment productive in making your grazing efforts faster and more profitable.

Darby Simpson

Darby Simpson

Trigger Finger Placement

Following up on my last article and the application of a Zen Mind to shooting…  …Here is a little gem, or just a dull rock to be tossed to the side. One of the weapon safety rules goes something like, “Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.”  Why is this even there?  Why is it a rule?  We will touch on those questions as we get into a technique that is a “bend” on the “straight finger” rule. Leading up to and/or during a lull (not actively shooting) in a gunfight, you will have your pistol/rifle in your hand.  You will be ready to disengage the safety, if it is so equipped, and your finger will (situationally) be outside the trigger guard.  Why is your finger outside of the trigger guard?  Because we only want the weapon to fire when we WANT the weapon to fire. Any number of factors can cause us to discharge that weapon unintentionally if our finger is on the trigger.  Such as a teammate bumping into you, clipping a door jamb in your haste, or having a fleeing by-standard running into you.  Not to mention just the sympathetic response to loud and violent noises which often cause us to flinch and clench. With this, I have come to the conclusion in my mind that keeping my finger off the trigger is a good weapon safety rule.  But we get into situations where having my finger straight and off the trigger isn’t advantageous.  While this little technique may seem more applicable for Law Enforcement Officers, you may find it has merit for most all shooters. For an LEO, the likelihood of someone attempting to grab your weapon is probably better than most average civilians.  Officer’s don’t just draw their pistols and shoot, often the weapons are drawn only to be re-holstered.  Within that time, an opportunity may arise for an unsavory character to attempt to take or effectively disable your weapon. “Well I’d stay back”  “I’d guard my weapon”  “Bring it into a retracted position…”  Don’t go down the rabbit hole, stay with me, the world isn’t tactically perfect. If someone grabs your pistol, or even rifle, and clamps your finger to the side of your weapon, you are now in a game of tug-o-war and any advantage you had, by being armed, is severely reduced… How can this be mitigated as much as possible?  A solution is, our finger is kept bent, outside the trigger guard, just as before.  Whether it is on the opposite side of the trigger guard (towards the barrel) or on the frame above the trigger guard.  What this does is creates time and opportunity; albeit very small, it is still there.  In a violent and dynamic situation, there is that little pocket of time and space when you realize someone’s intent to take/disable your weapon.  Using that, you MAY find that little buffer you created for yourself is enough to collapse your finger into your trigger guard if that is what that situation calls for… Even though the physical space this technique creates seems insignificant, that time and space it provides, when your brain recognizes the situation, may pay dividends.  The dynamic aspect of this technique can be tried/trained and/or proven out with a blue gun or even an Airsoft gun. “But it will make me slower firing…” “But it is uncomfortable…”  “But Jason Borne doesn’t use that technique…”  Stop for a minute, slip into that zen mind, internalize it, maybe *gasp* even go as far as to try it.  If you find merit in, integrate it, train to proficiency, let it become second nature. “But it only has merit in a certain situation…”  Then just use it in that situation, or don’t. “But this is geared for Cops…”  The minute you put a weapon in your hand, there is a chance someone may attempt and take that weapon from you.   Good luck on your journey.   Stay armed and stay proficient…   Ivan

Ivan Loomis

Ivan Loomis

Will You Be Ready?

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “It can’t happen to me”……… Denial is quite the killer. It’s silent, it’s comforting, and then its effects strike when you aren’t prepared for your “moment of truth.” You need to critically evaluate how you would react in a defensive encounter, going through the steps and then letting one question really sink into your soul:  If you were attacked, what would be going through your head at that instant? What would you be willing to have done, paid, sacrificed, bought, trained for, in order to make this situation go another way? I’m guessing that, when faced with death, or serious bodily harm, your answer would’ve been simple:  I would have done anything to be prepared to turn the tide of the present attack. Consider these scenarios: Do you know what to do if a threatening man starts walking towards you in the parking lot? What is your first response for you and your loved ones if your door at home gets kicked in? What would you do if 3 young men in the park approached you on your daily walk? What are your options if a man draws a gun and tells you to get in his car? You can learn answers to all of these questions and learn how to respond appropriately with adequate preparation and training. I teach women these things, and it blows their minds when they realize that yes, there are answers, there is a right response to take, and you can learn it just like any of the thousands of skills you’ve learned in your life. First, you have to kick denial out of your life before you’ll realize that you need to know those answers and it will take some time and investment to learn them. Who is the “real” first responder to a self-defense situation? No, it isn’t the police; their job is to investigate a crime unless you’re a person of high importance like a high-ranking politician and then you’re provided some protection. The first responder is YOU, it’s the person being attacked because attacks are over in seconds and outside help is minutes away.  Again, although you would hope they would protect you if they are right there while you’re being attacked, police cannot protect all of the citizens and are called after an incident occurs. It is in your hands to know how to protect yourself and loved ones. Will you be ready? You don’t want an attack to be your motivator to learn the skills necessary to defend yourself. You know times are changing when the Miss USA pageant brings up questions about women’s self-defense. When asked about sexual assaults on college campuses during the Miss USA Pageant, Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, said this, “I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.” That’s a great answer, and the judges seemed to think she was the best of the group by voting her Miss USA. Not everyone thought she was so spot on when it came to the need for women’s self-defense. One of her critics said this afterward: “Sorry Miss Nevada, but we do not need to teach women how to better defend ourselves. We need to teach men not to feel entitled to rape.” Seriously?!?! Let’s pull that big, fluffy white blanket of denial over our heads…… Let’s see how this situation would play out in real life:  Mr. Rapist grabs a women’s hair and yells at her to be quiet and lay on the ground. The woman then says, “Don’t you know that this isn’t right and you are not entitled to rape me!” I’m sure the rapist would agree with her and leave her alone. Don’t you wish there wasn’t evil in the world and terrible people that do horrible things? Me, too. Don’t you wish there weren’t wars, children starving, and disease that kills? Me, too. There has been evil in the world since the beginning of time, and what denial doesn’t want you to realize is that bad things happen to good people all of the time. Don’t think you’re immune, or you’ll pay the price, and the price may be your life. Everyone likes a good Top Ten list. So, why do you need more awareness skills and self-defense tools? Crime can happen to anyone at any time of the day in a “good” or “bad” area. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female or if you are in a park or in your home. Predators strike at any time of day at all locations. Become empowered, gain confidence, knowledge, and skills. Learn how to read body language and use your body language and verbal defense to stop predators. These skills alone will dissuade a predator from picking you! Walk with confidence and be aware. Have the defensive hardware options available and know how to use them effectively. Consider this a cheap life insurance policy. Look at what you spent money on in the past year. If you learned skills to decrease your chance of being a target for something vicious wouldn’t that be a wise investment compared to most of that other stuff? If nothing else, do it for your children and those that count on you because you’re in charge of keeping them safe after all. You taught your children to swim so they wouldn’t drown and you showed them how to cross the street without getting hit by a car. You have many people counting on you to be here tomorrow, I think that should be motivation to do what you can with your life to prepare for what you can. Sure, you may be struck by lightning, but you can prepare for an attack. Be a role model for your sons and daughters or those that love you and look up to you. Give them the confidence they need and show them how you value your life and they should value theirs. Be the change you want to see in the world. It is better to have a plan and not need it than need a plan and not have it if someone tries to hurt or kill you.  Again, I think it’s much better to invest time and money into training that I pray you’ll never need, then not do it and need it someday. HAVE A PLAN! This is far better than no plan or a faulty plan that has you getting hurt or killed while some thug walks off laughing. Crime is on the rise with the economic hard times and your chances of a victim are also increased.  Bad dudes from the gang MS13 are trickling in every day into the US, but there are also a high percentage of “opportunistic psychopaths” who are “normally good” but will exhibit psychopathic behavior if given the opportunity, i.e. police are overwhelmed for one reason or another. In our “intact society” crime statistics are on the rise. In a disaster like a hurricane, it can skyrocket. Renting a police officer or personal security guard is very expensive. Another saying is “I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy”. It would be fantastic to have someone guard us all of the time, but this is not feasible unless you’re Mayor Bloomberg. He is one of the most anti-gun people on the planet and what does he do? He surrounds himself with people carrying guns! Is he really worth protecting so much more than you or me? Studies show learning a new skill will increase your happiness. Don’t we all want more happiness? Isn’t it always in our best interest to make us a better person? If you really need to dig this deep to get the motivation to learn self-defense skills, well, there you have it. Do it to make yourself happier! You get only one life to live and you need to fight like your life depends on it because it does. You get but just one shot at living in this world. Why not have it go the way you want it to? There is no room for some random stranger to cause pain or a nightmare to scar you the rest of your life. Live with boldness; don’t let someone destroy your life. “Go BIG or go home!” I choose to go BIG!!!

Beth Warford

Beth Warford

Wood Burning Stoves, Ovens and Fireplaces.

First let me say that, when it comes to burn efficiency, we have 3 main elements; time, temperature and turbulence. I think turbulence also means mixing with oxygen properly or at right stages along the burn path. I would like to add two more elements to this list, myself, from Rumford’s studies; insulation and thermal mass (a recurring theme in the green scene). Though insulation and thermal mass are elements that affect time and temperature. There is plenty that I do not say in this article about stove installation and connections of pipes and types of pipes, wall connections, etc. I don’t talk about modern stoves with catalytic converters in the smoke stacks, which bring the cost up in the $1,000’s. There are certified installers for stoves, as well. I also don’t talk about creosote build up due to premature cooling of smoke gasses. Yes, there is quite a bit more material covered by books and websites about all this. I, like most people, like the looks and pleasing feel of the open fire in or out of a home. I personally have no bias against highly inefficient open fires places, unless I need to conserve wood as fuel because of a shortage or because I want to spend less time gathering, cutting, splitting and stacking or moving wood.  You may get a metallic reflector to place in the back of your fireplace to add efficiency. Yet, fireplaces with stove inserts, of course, are more efficient than open fireplaces. Inserts are not as efficient as stand alone stoves, however. Count Rumford was a guy who studied thermodynamics in the late 1700’s. He wrote a set of books about his research. He determined and recorded the BTU ratings for many types of wood around Europe and the world. His book is called “Complete Works of Count Rumford.” You can download a free scanned copy of the original rare book from a publisher’s website (GeneralBooksClub.com). You can also preview excerpts of the book there. I have seen vol 2 and vol 5. I don’t know how many volumes there are. You will find downloads of the PDF with web searches. Here is a firewood facts page with some BTU for species info. This image above shows the forward slant on traditional yet not on the Rumford. I’m pretty sure Rumford has a slight forward slant on top of the fire box, though not as extreme as the conventional one shown in the image. Of the open fireplaces, Rumford’s design is most efficient. This design is not deep from front to back. The back wall slopes forward for about half the height up to the fireplace flue opening. It would have a lot of thermal mass around it. It has a smoke shelf and chamber above the top of the fireplace so that hot smoke can circulate around and warm the thermal mass, instead of simply shooting straight up and out the chimney. There are Rumford design stoves and cooking ranges/ovens, as well. A brand of Rumford design wood cook ovens was AGA Brand. I don’t know that much about his stove/range/oven design yet and I can’t really find drawings of it. As for Count Rumford’s wood cook ovens and ranges, he used deep fire wells with good use of thermal mass and insulation. He used insulated lids and doors. The idea was to only produce the amount of heat needed and keep it where needed. His first ovens were so efficient that they had to install a small open fireplace to keep the cooks warm on winter days. When cooking on wood ranges, pots and pans must be moved around from cooler burners to warmer burners. To get extra heat, a burner plate could be removed to set the pot or pan directly on the heat or flames. Turning of the pots and pans is frequently necessary because each burner will have a warmer and cooler side.  To cool an oven that is too hot, place a pan of cool water inside the oven. Some ovens vent smoke around a warmer box above the stove for keeping food warm until served. Some stoves also have hot water wells for on demand hot water.   Rocket Stove is made with a pipe that drops nearly to the bottom of the stove, so that air is sucked downward and horizontally into the pipe. Mass Rocket heater is a similar concept, except that it uses a J shaped flue with firebox, which circulates the smoke/gasses back around the flue and down into heater ducts. These ducts flow through thermal mass of some kind and should be 6″ from the outside surface of this thermal mass. The flue is only about 3 feet tall and is insulated with high heat tolerant insulation, such as vermiculite beads (activated mica), perlite (volcanic glassy material), pumice (volcanic ash), kaowool (sometimes called kawool, I think), or, heaven forbid, asbestos. Actually, there is a type of asbestos that does not get caught in the lungs or cause cancer or lung disease. Even though geologist have proven its safety, it is still not allowed. Wools like kaowool may be called “High Temperature Insulation Wool” or HTIW. Paul Wheaton of Richsoil.com Rocket mass heaters draw air from the top of the fire hole (pit) downward and sideways into the flue. They have their drawbacks. For example, they need a lot more attention than the normal stoves or open fireplaces when it comes to feeding them. However, they absolutely make the most efficient use of heat, heat storage and thermal mass. And they burn the most cleanly and efficiently possible. The exhaust from a rocket mass heater is almost clear, has mostly CO2, little CO maybe and water vapor. The heat coming out of a rock mass heater flue would only be around 200F degrees or a bit more instead of 600 to 900 degrees. This, in itself, demonstrates why they are efficient. This shows heat retained by the thermal mass and inside the structure. A rocket stove design at alt-nrg.org There are many uses for rocket mass heaters and one interesting one I heard of was used for a wood drying kiln. The kiln was 8 feet high, 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. A rocket stove would pipe its exhaust through a box filled with sand the length of the kiln. I think I’ll try this some day, because you can use all the waste wood and possibly saw dust for fuel in drying the good wood. Other uses mentioned was in the heating of a hot tub or pool water. Rocket Mass stoves for cooking are not out of the question either. Unlike the open fire or stoves, using heated thermal mass means taking advantage of all the forms of heat transfer radiation, convection and conduction. If done properly you can place mattresses and/or lay or sit directly on the thermal mass for the transfer of heat into your body. This is the most efficient way to warm the body. Normal warming comes from radiation (stoves or open fires) or convection (central heating) mostly. Cob (Native American Horno (bee hive oven) or brick ovens for baking pizza and bread seem like a great idea to me, too. I’m a big proponent in utilizing thermal mass for this stuff. The cob oven I saw in the Cob House book resembled a mud dome. It had a door that was made of wood actually. You build the fire inside the oven to warm it. After you warm it, you remove the coals and ash and wait a small bit of time for the temp to drop to the baking temp. Then bake. This oven can be made more efficient borrowing from the rocket stove design. It would need a small chimney or flue at the top. It would also need an intake flue that would drop down so that intake air is drawn down to the floor level. I’d say a pipe with some slots or holes drilled in the bottom would work fine. This intake flue would be removed just prior to baking. An insulated plug might be needed for the intake flue hole. Chimney might need to have a damper or plug. The thermal mass of the 1 foot thick mud oven dome keeps the oven warm long enough to bake pizza or bread or maybe even a casserole. It’s a matter of designing it so that it keeps a given temperature range for a given time for a given recipe. It’s likely that what would work for one recipe will also work for a myriad of others. Russian fireplaces and stoves were made using thermal mass principles as well. Russian chimneys were often made so that the smoke circulated in a zig zag fashion around block or rock, so that more heat was absorbed by the thermal mass before the smoke escapes the chimney. They also had places to sit that had been warmed by the smoke and fire. Some Russian beds were actually made on top of stoves, where there was about a foot of thermal mass between the bed and stove. The bed would be high up in the room, near the ceiling, also, which would be the warmer part of the room because of convection. It gets quite cold in Siberia (-120F maybe). One last note about chimneys. First settlers in America made chimneys and fire places from logs and cob. Cob being mud/straw mix packed between the logs and as thermal mass between flue and logs and fireplace and logs. The logs were stacked in a loose fit manner. The mud held the logs in place and the logs held the mud in place. Once fired a few times, the mud would become like brick. The logs overhung the mud on the outside enough to prevent erosion from rain. This is probably not a method I’d use unless I was in a pinch. If I wanted an el cheapo cabin somewhere as a camp site I might try this method as well. Lehman’s sells $8,000 wood cook ranges and ovens imported from Europe. A quick search on eBay will find used wood cooking stoves and ovens for much lower prices. Recommended Books Rocket Stove, Rocket Mass Heater   Building with Cob, shows how to build a simple cob oven.     Some comments from the blog post with additional info. http://politowoodfireovens.com.au/ A cob oven maker in Australia   Omega heat measuring device Its a hand held heat monitor that reads up to 4 probes at once for around $350 or so. This is for oven and stove development and engineering. Kitchen Queen Wood burning cook ranges Not cheap $2,000 to $3,000.   Grover Round Stove pipe oven. They also make these to sit on top of a stove. Lehmans box flue oven. Masonry Heater Association Mother Earth news article about Masonry Heaters Also, for rocket mass heaters made from 55 gallon drums, you can make your own ovens by using metal bowls turned upside down or large metal cans. You can cook breads, pizza and even casseroles, or even just warm something up. You could insulate with ceramic wools and use aluminum foils and such. You could add oven thermometers or other high temp thermometers, also. There is a lot one can do with cooking on wood fired stove tops.  

CaverDude

CaverDude

Of Zen and Training

If you are pursuing training in firearms for yourself personally and/or professionally, bring the right mindset.  An Art teacher back in high school gave me a book, or I bought in on his recommendation, I can’t recall.  It was called, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.”  I will do my best to paraphrase it and save you time of picking it up. When we approach situations/instruction, we want to approach it with a beginner’s mind.  Putting aside past experience and knowledge.  Not to the detriment of the situation, mind you, but so that we can approach what is presented to us without a strong bias. Instructor: “So we are going to work on some reloads like this…”  Student’s Thoughts: “Pfft, I don’t do them like that…” Ya, you already missed the boat and are wasting everyone’s time at that point. There is innovation that takes place in every industry, everywhere around us.  It isn’t just smaller cell phones, it is within the firearms industry, also.  Often we find ourselves so rooted in our experiences, at best, or worse yet, clinging to what some article in a gun rag or blog says without ever confirming and validating the information with our own training.  I have been guilty of this myself and have witnessed it in fellow students as well.  Going through a vetting course for a job; we were doing a week long CQB class.  It was something new and by new I mean, not a 20-year-old doctrine.  It covered the gamut of unarmed strikes, weapon (AR and pistol) strikes as well, as shooting and maneuvering, of course.  Well, this rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  If you come from a 5-10-20 year career of kicking doors with the Military or a SWAT team, you don’t like people saying you’re wrong. Keep in mind, they weren’t being told you are wrong, they were presented other solutions to the problem.  The internal conflict comes when we knowingly see a better solution, even if just situationally, but refuse to acknowledge it.  Because we feel, by acknowledging this new method that isn’t ours, as in some doctrine we have built a dedication to, we feel all those thousands of hours and repetitions are a waste of time.  This isn’t the case.  But we need to recognize that if we were a race car driver and we happen to be driving a mini-van…  …when someone presents us with a Ferarri, you don’t say, “No thanks, I like my captain’s chairs in this one.”  Time continues to march; and what we would like to do, is maintain an adaptability. The next course you go to may not teach anything revolutionary, frankly, it may just teach a sum total of bad habits for shooting (if it isn’t a reputable course).  But with the Zen mind, we don’t toss them out at face value (unless they are just grossly unsafe).  We take them, try them, try to understand the how and why behind them.  Then, having done this, we match them up with what we do know and have experienced.  At this point, what is their value? My wife returned from a 3-Day Pistol-Instructor Development Course last year.  After talking to her about her experience there, I think her biggest takeaway from the class was a long list of what not to do.  The instructor spent a sizable portion of time talking about other instructors and why their methods weren’t as good…  As a competent instructor, you don’t do this.  Good instructors, in any field, don’t teach “The Way.”  Good instructors teach, “A” or multiple “Ways”.  Regardless of your skill level, competence with weapons is a journey and not a destination.  Extremely skilled people are extremely skilled because they continue to train and seek knowledge.  That learning curve is really sharp when we start off.  Trigger control, sight alignment, sight picture…  We start working these and we progress.  Further down the road, the gains aren’t as large, but they are always there.  And don’t be afraid to revisit, re-evaluate or experiment. I recently changed how I draw spare rifle magazines from my belt.  Rounds to the rear vs. rounds forward.  I asked myself, “Why am I performing this the way I am performing it?”  “Because that is the way I have always done it…”  Not a good answer to tell yourself.  So I took a technique, I have tried it, compared it, and articulated to myself why I am using one over the other.  Find your own answers.  Regardless of where you are on your journey, you will find little-hidden gems.  The broader the exposure we have in the community the better.  You may have had someone describe how to perform something 100 times.  But the next person that describes that same technique to you phrases it differently and it clicks!  The brain is crazy like that… Keep down that path, personal safety and security is a cornerstone of independence. Stay armed and stay proficient…  Ivan  

Ivan Loomis

Ivan Loomis

 

Zone 00: Right Intentions, Wrong Term

Toby Hemenway – July 6, 2014 One of my pet projects is to clean up the ambiguities and logical inconsistencies that weaken permaculture terminology. Today I take aim at the term Zone 00, used to mean either the designer or user of a permaculture design, or their inner state. It’s a concept spawned by good […] The post Zone 00: Right Intentions, Wrong Term appeared first on Toby Hemenway.
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TobyHemenway

TobyHemenway

 

Stress Part One: Cumulative Stress and Chronic Pain

Every day I meet people who are in chronic pain. In fact, twice in the past I had chronic pain. Once in my lower back and once in my left knee. At its worst the back pain kept me from standing upright or walking, and the knee pain kept me from walking up or down stairs or inclines. Military medicine wanted to operate both times. The first time I was living in San Diego and I found a movement specialist in Los Angeles who showed me how to correct the back issue, with movement not surgery. Years later I was living in Washington when the knee became debilitating, so I flew to LA again with the same results. The knee was rehabbed with movement instead of surgery. Most of the people I work with now are everyday people who want to move better and feel better. However, being close to Fort Lewis I see military and law enforcement personnel everyday who are walking around in pain. Why? Compromised movement plus the load of equipment equals lasting effects. Why is back and knee pain in particular so hard to diagnose? Mostly because Western medicine is made up primarily of systems specialists, and chronic pain is often the effect of whole body issues. When my lower back was in pain, the doctors and physical therapists I went to focused on the back. However, they were unsuccessful because the back was not the issue, merely the symptom. My back pain actually came from a misalignment of the sacrum and the right pelvis bone. Instead of manually adjusting the two, I was given a prescription of simple exercise that allowed the effected muscles to relax and the bones to naturally reseat themselves. But the misalignment is just part of the story. Have you ever seen a baby so flexible it put its toes in its mouth? Of course, now if I brought in an anesthesiologist right now and put you under do you think your toes would make it your mouth? Surprise! They would. We think of our flexibility as if muscles stretch like rubber bands. But the elasticity of our muscles has little to do with our joint range of motion. Instead our nervous system places restrictions on our movement as a result of trauma we experience throughout our lives. Here is an example: at birth you are completely flexible, at age 5 you roll your ankle, at 10 you have a bike wreck, at 12 you fall out of a tree, at 16 you have a shoulder injury from baseball, then you start driving, watching TV/computer screen, wear glasses, get a tattoo, and finally have a really stressful day a work – and your back starts hurting. If your back is the result of cumulative stress, then all the Motrin, cortisone shots, spinal manipulations, surgeries, etc… that are frequently done will not get rid of the back pain. Finally, one day you come to see me. I watch you walk across the room. I look at which compensation based on past trauma, or current habits, is most effecting your movement. We work on that and get measurable results. With those results we prescribe movement and dosages to start correcting the problems and get you out of pain. If you are in chronic pain, you are not preparing for SHTF, you are in it now and under more stress it will only get worse. By learning to understand and resolve chronic pain issues now you can get out of pain and be better prepared to help those around you during a crisis. So, as for stress. Physical stress is cumulative throughout our lives. It may be the result of trauma, or posture, or repetitive movements. Physical stress from movement is the lowest of the five stressors that contribute to chronic pain, but the most often contributor so this is where we start making corrections. The next higher stressor is your vestibular system. This is your sense of balance and movement and is often a contributor if a person is extremely sedentary, or has sustained a severe traumatic injury in the past, like an auto accident. The next higher stressor is vision. Our eyes perform 29 functions. When we fail to exercise them adequately, maybe by starring at a computer all day, they begin to fail us and cause high levels of stress on our nervous system. Next up is nutrition. If you do not have adequate vitamins, minerals, and water your body cannot maintain or repair itself. At the top of the pyramid is mental stress. This is stress derived from how you react to external stimulus such as family, work, living conditions, or threats. When all these stresses combine, it can push you over your personal stress threshold and result in chronic pain. But, long before they get to the pain stage, they begin to effect performance. So, stress affects all of us and needs to be resolved as much as possible. Over the next few articles I hope to give you some tools to self-assess and start to control stress to improve both pain and performance.   The post "Stress Part One: Cumulative Stress and Chronic Pain" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.  

ButchTrail

ButchTrail

What it Means to Detox- Part 2 of 3: Mind-Body Connection

In part one, I wrote about physical detoxification and about food and environmental pollution detoxification. I  focused on how the foods we eat, the water we drink and the skin care products we use impact our health. I am now going to talk about the mind-body connection. And how our minds/attitudes can change our physiology, how to take control of our health, and heal ourselves with very little, if any, medical intervention.  I was going to write on how light and electrical pollution has been found to be very dangerous to our health; however, due to the length of this article, I will be posting another article on the dangers and solutions to electromagnetic exposure in the near future. Let's get started The term, mind/body connection has been thrown around and misused in many circles. Our minds are our bodies and vice-versa. The only thing that separates the two, in reality, is the fact that our brains have no pain receptors. Therefore, we cannot tell when something is going "right" or "wrong" in our brain. Inflammation of the brain has been linked to depression, Depression is caused by inflammation and so it leads to reason that decreasing inflammation can help a depressed person. Just like a diabetic who has neuropathy in their feet and cannot feel the nail, they stepped on, our brains are in a similar situation. Inflammation can have many causes. Stress and a poor diet are the primary culprits. Increased cortisol levels are a result of stress, which, in turn, causes inflammation. Let's take a look at stress: According to Mayo Clinic: "Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn't mean that life is free of stress. On the contrary, you undoubtedly face multiple demands each day, such as shouldering a huge workload, making ends meet and taking care of your family. Your body treats these so-called minor hassles as threats. As a result, you may feel as if you're constantly under assault. But you can fight back. You don't have to let stress control your life. Understanding the natural stress response When you encounter a perceived threat- a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance- your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation, and fear. When the natural stress response goes haywire The body's stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels and other systems resume their regular activities. But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: Anxiety Depression Digestive problems Heart disease Sleep problems Weight gain Memory and concentration impairment That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life." Even "good" stress can cause the adrenals to overreact. Coping with stress In order to treat stress, we need to realize we are under stress. For example, it is not natural for a person to sit in a projectile (automobile) and go 70mph, but many of us do this daily. Our modern lifestyles do not allow for much in the way of alleviating and managing stress in a healthy way. Many people will resort to drinking to calm their nerves. This is a temporary solution which actually makes the cortisol levels in the body rise. Alcohol and cortisol levels Also, we are very much isolated in our modern world. There have been studies showing that breast cancer survivors are five times more likely to survive if they have a strong support system of friends and family. Social isolation causes cortisol levels to rise, giving way to inflammation in the body. This affects all our organs, but especially our heart and endocrine systems.    Social isolation also leads to higher cortisol levels  Tips on coping with and alleviating stress It is important to realize that each person will react to stress in a different way. Age, sex, cultural background, social support, emotional, physical and spiritual health all contribute to how a person reacts to and handles stress.  The following is a general guideline for handling stress and stress reduction Plan ahead. The simple act of planning almost anything helps reduce the potential for stress tremendously. Look at all aspects of your life. From meal planning to physical activity to social functions to a quiet time for meditation- these all help reduce stress and keep our lives in balance. Rethink your priorities. In our fast-paced world, we can start to take on too many projects and start to feel overwhelmed. I recently heard a saying "You can do anything but not everything." This applies to all parts of our lives. Sitting down and writing out priorities will give you a better picture as to what is truly important in your life. I use a planner to put down those things that I must do, should do, and want to do. Make sure you have meaningful social interaction as one of your priorities, along with meditation and prayer every day to calm and clear the mind. Reduce unnecessary clutter.  Whether it is actual physical clutter or clutter in not organizing or the clutter in our heads, getting rid of that which does not serve us is a step in the right direction. Clear out those things that do not serve you anymore. Whether it is a garage or closet that needs organizing or thoughts that serve no productive purpose, work on streamlining your life as much as possible. Learn to relax. Learn to achieve an inner, calm, peaceful state no matter what your outward circumstances. Meditation and prayer have been found to significantly reduce stress levels. 15 minutes a day has shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase productivity. It has been said that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God. Even if you do not subscribe to a religious precept, meditation will help calm the mind, thereby reducing stress levels. Here is a link on how to meditate  and a link on how to pray Release the stress. This can be accomplished by exercise, which uses up the adrenaline produced by stress, writing in a journal, talking to a friend or safe person, looking at the stress in a different light (I like to look at what's causing my stress and ask myself if it will really matter in 100 years from now- if I answer "no", I let it go). If overly tired, take a long hot bath. Add lavender and citrus essential oils to the bath. Our sense of smell is directly wired into our limbic system, which processes emotion and learning. Here is an excellent article on aromatherapy and its uses. Learn deep breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose. Hold for two counts. Slowly exhale through your nose. Do this five times. Studies have shown that doing this simple exercise reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. Anytime you start to feel stress coming on, try this simple exercise. In conclusion - Our bodies and minds are not separate. What happens to one part happens to another. We need to look at the whole picture- what we eat, our activity level, social/support system, our attitudes and spiritual activities, and find a balance that works for us. Only then will we be able to live the most productive and fulfilling life we were meant to live all along. Part 3 of this series will go into the very real dangers of man made radiation and some proven protocols to rid our bodies and reduce our exposure and damage it has on our bodies.

Brooke Lounsbury

Brooke Lounsbury

 

The Great Equalizer

Molly was driving down the interstate to go visit her boyfriend when she notices she has a flat tire. She immediately pulls over and assesses the situation and quickly realizes she needs to call AAA to have someone come change her tire. A few cars stop, but she refuses to open her door because the people look scary and she tells them that help is just minutes away. Molly has now been waiting for an hour on the side of the road when an Audi A8 pulls over and a very handsome man in a suit comes to her car door. He tells her that he can change her tire in ten minutes so she can get going again and that it would make his day to help someone in need. After all he is a good looking guy, in a great suit, and he really wants to help her and, not wanting to insult the kind offer of the man, she opens her door. Molly is only half out when he grabs ahold of her arm and shows his knife to her in his other hand. The man tells Molly to get in his trunk or he will kill her and then he throws her purse in on top of her. Slam…the trunk shuts and Molly is terrified for her life. The man takes off down the road and starts ranting about raping her, beating her and then killing her. To make a horrific man even more crazy sounding, she hears him turn on the stereo and sing along with the music, as if he is the happiest man in the world and he didn’t just say all those terrible things to her………. The following statement probably has more meaning to Molly than before her encounter: “The normal are inclined to visualize the psychopath as one who’s as monstrous in appearance as he is in mind, which is about as far from the truth as one could well get…” from William March, in the book The Bad Seed. I bet Molly will never assume someone is a good person just by their looks again and my hope is that you don’t either. What would you do if you were stranded on the side of the road waiting for help and had no way to defend yourself? Odds are that a very nice person would come and change your tire and you wouldn’t have any problems. But, are you one to play with odds? I know I don’t play with odds when it comes to my life. How would you feel if an evil person came to help and you couldn’t protect yourself or your family? I will talk about why, as a woman, it is important to include having a gun, a few misconceptions of guns, and why women need to share the responsibility with men as far as protecting lives of those we know and don’t know. My motto is “Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.” I don’t take my life for granted and I realize that, as a woman, I have a much larger chance that I will be assaulted at some point in my life. I have a great idea of how many predators and psychopaths are walking in society and my chances of crossing their path are quite good. You need to develop your own personalized defensive plan, but my plan involves a little black tool that weighs 20 oz. Why? A firearm is the ultimate equalizer between a man and woman. It is said that “God made man and woman, but it is Sam Colt, the father of the modern revolver, that made them equal.” I can have amazing Situational Awareness skills and know a few martial arts moves to defend myself, but I could be stuck in a rest area bathroom stall when a 250-pound man comes in to harm me. I’m going to let him contemplate the blackness of the muzzle of my M&P Shield and the glow of the laser that is shining brightly right between his eyes. I think he will leave when I give him the option to get the hell out or I will shoot. There may be situations where you have time to “try” less lethal defenses and there are times when lethal is the only choice. It’s for times like that when a pistol is truly a “girl’s best friend”. Guns are lifesaving and threat stopping devices. I know that having a pistol and being proficient in its use has given me so much confidence and security for many years. I’m talking about the opportunity to live my normal life with the confidence that, if a psychopath tries to destroy my life, he’s going to have to fight me first. All firearms take a responsibility for their use. I’m certainly not suggesting you go buy a 38 Special with a pink grip and toss it in your purse without training or going through the mental exercises required to be a responsible armed citizen. They need to be handled with great care and respect, just as driving a car down the road does. Many critics focus on the danger of guns when the reality is that buckets of water, staircases (as mentioned in Jack Spirko’s article), side effects from prescription medications and numerous other things kill far more people than guns do every year. A common misconception amongst the students I teach is that a gun might just fire on its own. Just as pencils do not misspell words all on their own, a gun will not shoot by itself. It surprises them that it takes, on average, between 6-12 pounds of pressure (depending on the handgun design) to press the trigger with a finger before the gun will fire. A journey that I am on with my teammates is to empower as many women with confidence and safe gun handling skills to protect themselves and their loved ones. As a woman, you may love to be taken care of and protected by your significant other, but what if he isn’t home or around when something bad happens? Don’t you wish you could predict when bad things will happen? That’s just not possible. In our appointment driven society, no alarm will pop up on your iPhone reminding you that you have 15 minutes until a “critical defensive encounter”, so you may as well get ready. Another thing to consider – if your boyfriend/husband is carrying a gun, and something happens, how much do you think your chances for prevailing will increase if you both are armed, instead of just him? As the joke goes, you may be an atheist and not like guns, but if a bad guy shows up, you’ll be praying to God for a gun real quick. “Oh, but the police will come to my rescue if I need them” is a statement I hear often. Really? It takes an average of ten minutes for the police to arrive after dialing 911 and assaults can be over in seconds. I’m no math major, but I think the police will show up to investigate the scene of the crime, not prevent it. In your moment of truth, it is YOU that needs to be able to protect and fight for your life. My team has been approached by wives of soldiers deployed in the service of our country. These women want to be able to take care of themselves and their families while their primary protector is away. The brave soldiers have enough to worry about fearing for their own lives and have deep-seated worries about who will protect their wives and children while they are gone. I have had messages of thanks from soldiers for providing this small comfort to them during their deployment, so I know first hand this is the case. …. the car carrying Molly comes to a sudden stop and, as the man opens the trunk, he’s greeted with Boom! Boom! Boom! Mr. Psychopath didn’t count on the fact that Molly had a pistol in her purse and was clearly motivated to use it. Molly packed the one thing that ended up saving her life that day and the same man she shot was responsible for many other rapes and deaths. This is my recollection of a true story that I had heard 19 years ago and it was part of what motivated me to start carrying a gun. How many women a year could “turn the table” on their crisis situation if they had a gun themselves? It is time for you to rise up and take control of your personal safety and know that you have a way to guard your body and home. No person has the right to do harm to you or your family. I think it’s time to declare war on all the evil men that think they can wantonly victimize any woman they want. Yes, women are smaller and weaker than men, but we have all the tools and smarts to protect ourselves and it’s time to stop living passively and in fear. If your avoidance skills fail you, and the Devil is upon you, consider what you will hope for at that moment as a tool to prevail. For me, that’s a handgun, the great equalizer. Be Safe. Be Empowered. Be LOADED!

Beth Warford

Beth Warford

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