July 29, 2014

MyNature Animal TracksMyNature Tree GuideMyNature Animal TracksMyNature Fishing App

In Search of Wild Leeks, Allium tricoccum

It’s Springtime here in the Adirondacks which could only mean one thing, that it’s time to hunt down the incredibly tasty Wild Leek, cook up a huge pot of Potato Leek soup and celebrate the end of a long dreary winter. Wild Leeks, Allium tricoccum  aka, ramps, wild garlic, spring onion or wood onion are found in rich woods in the Northeast. leekleaf Wild Leeks are best identified by their leaves which grow in pairs. The leaves are elliptical in shape 5 to 10 inches long with a smooth margin. They have a kind of waxy feel to them and they are light green in color.  Each leaves stalk is reddish purple tinged becoming lighter as it gets closer to the leaf base.  Wild Leeks tend to grow in large colonies. On my hike yesterday I saw hundreds of thousands of Wild Leeks growing, in some areas the plants completely covered the ground. If you were to crush or crumple one of the leaves it would have a strong oniony garlic scent to it.  Just below the soil a few inches is where you’ll find the meaty bulb of the plant.  There’s no reason to dig up the bulb, you don’t want or need to disturb the soil, simply grasp the lower leaf leekmeatstalk and with a quick tug the bulb should come free. You’ll see that the bulb is encased in a somewhat transparent skin and once pulled off the pure white flesh is exposed. Both the leaves and the bulb are edible and to me have a very pleasant oniony garlic flavor. If you’re lucky enough to find a patch of woods where Wild Leeks are growing take special care to not overharvest the plant. Take only enough to prepare a meal or two and you should only remove one or two of the bulbs from each colony.  Overharvesting of Wild Leeks in some states has actually led to the plant be listed as a species of concern and in some parts of Canada the plants are protected and possession of them is illegal. Once the leaves begin to yellow and wither the are no longer desirable and only the bulb should be eaten. Here’s one of my favorite recipes and one I look forward to every Spring.

Wild Leek and Potato Soup

4-6 slices bacon (optional)  4 cups chopped wild leeks, including greens
4-5 diced red potatoes
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream  Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, fry bacon until crispy. Set bacon aside. Add leeks and potatoes to the skillet; fry on medium-low heat until leeks are tender. Sprinkle with flour; stir until flour is absorbed. Stir in chicken broth and simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in cream and heat thoroughly. Add crumbled bacon and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped leek leaves if desired. Serves 4-6.
Enjoy and please practice sensible conservation of this species!

Outdoor Vancouver, 10 best iPhone Android Apps for the Outdoors

10 Best iPhone and Android Apps for the Outdoors

Filed in Deals, Products and Companies by on March 16, 2014 • 1 Comment
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Sometimes the best part of getting outside is turning off your smartphone and getting away from technology. But there are definitely times where your iPhone or Android can open up new activities, or put needed information at your fingertips. Here are the 10 best smartphone apps for getting outdoors.

SIDENOTE: You do NOT want to rely on your phone’s GPS for backcountry navigation, with very few exceptions. Why not? There is a detailed list of reasons in this article.


10. Strava

Strava Top Ten Apps Smartphone Strava quickly became my favorite web-app for tracking all my running training. The website is very clean, provides great reports, and let’s you follow your friend’s training (and comment and leave ‘kudos’ on their workouts). Perhaps, the coolest feature of Strava is the ‘segments’.

Segments are user-created, user-edited, and designate a portion of route where users can compete for time. You can use segments to compare your own times, or to compare with other user’s times who have also completed the segment. Segments are a great way to see who is in your area, and to link to the type of routes other users are riding or running.

Best of all, after you upload your GPS file to the website, it will automatically see if you ran any segments and show you your overall standings in the leaderboard for that segment. The smartphone app for Strava let’s you record your run or cycle using your phone’s GPS and directly uploads the file to your account after the workout is complete. The app also lets you see your activity feed, your profile, and explore new segments. If you use Strava you can follow me here.

Strava App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: Free (there is a premium upgrade to unlock extra features on the website).

9. iBird

For anyone who is a birder, and tech savy, this is a no-brainer compared to flipping though a book out of your backpack. But even if you’re not a birder, I can see where this app comes in handy. There’s been several times where I’ve been out hiking or trail running and have come across owls, which I think are amazing animals. But its frustrating if you don’t know the species. Having this app on your phone is the answer.

iBird App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: Lite version is free, or $10 for pro on Android and $20 on iOS Also slated for release in 2014 is a Google Glass version.

8. Everytrail

Everytrail App

Everytrail is another website I use a lot. It is similar to Strava above, but geared towards hiking and walking, instead of cycling and running. The website allows you to comb through hundreds of thousands of user-generated trail guides. Each guide will allow you to view the GPS tracks on  a map, download the tracks, view the elevation profile, and most have accompanying pictures and or even video. (You can see the trip reports I have created here). A few features of the app:

  • Track your route with your phone’s GPS capability – see your route map drawn while you move
  • Listen to awesome audio guides that give you hands free info at key POIs along the way
  • Plot pictures taken with your phone’s camera on your map instantly
  • Download maps to use offline when data connection is spotty or to avoid pricey roaming charges (Pro Version only)
  • View stats while tracking (distance, speed, elevation and more)

Everytrail App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: Free for lite version, or $4 for Pro version (needed to unlock maps for offline use, and to remove ads)

7. What Knot To Do

What Knot To Do iPhone

“What Knot to Do (in the Greater Outdoors) is your pocket guide to 70 must know knots in six categories. With this App you’ll always have just the right knot at the ready, with clear step-by-step tying instructions to meet any and every outdoor need”. There are quite a few knot apps out there but What Knot To Do rises to the top.  The knots are easy to find within their categories of bends, hitches, loops, bindings, stoppers, and specials. Each knot has some background detail about the knot, and explains when and where you’d most likely need to use it. Then there a several graphics that break out the process of how to actually tie the knot. A few features:

  • Glossary of terms with over 70 entries
  • Illustrated terminology examples
  • Introduction to knots, cordage and knot tying
  • Easy to follow step-by-step tying instructions

What Know To Do App: iPhone | Website Cost: Free Android Alternative: Knots Guide (Free)

6. Google SkyMap

With SkyMap you can point your phone into the night sky to identify stars, planets, constellations, and even meteor showers. The app uses your phones GPS and compass data to identify the stars you are looking at. Or, if you want to find a particular star or planet, you can do a search for it, and SkyMap will show you where to move your phone to locate it. Pretty cool stuff!

What Know To Do App: Android | Website Cost: Free iPhone AlternativeStar Chart

5. Learn to Camp

Learn to Camp App

Learn to Camp is an app developed by Parks Canada, and its surprisingly well done. It has four basic main areas; Camping Basics, Camping Checklist, Recipes and Cooking, and Find a Park. There is plenty of simple and basic information under the Camping Basics section. This information is not very detailed, but would be useful for newbie campers. The Camping Checklist lets you create a list of items you’ll need for your trip, which are added from pre-populated categories in the app. You can then cross them off as you’ve collected the items.

The app also shows you all the National Parks and general details about each site. This app is very handy. I wish they would team up with the Provincial Parks to add those parks into the app as well.

What Know To Do App: iPhoneAndroid | Website Cost: Free

4. The Backpacker Checklist

Backpacker Checklist App

The title of the app says it all. If you’re looking for a checklist that is more robust than the checklist built unto Learn To Camp (app #, above), then this is the one you want.

The Backpacker Checklist will help you:

  • Plan ahead for what to bring
  • Locate where to get your gear
  • Calculate how much your pack will weigh
  • Assist in eliminating stuff you don’t want/need to carry

What Know To Do App: iPhone | Website Cost: Free Android Alternative: Backpack Planner ($1)

3. GPS Essentials

Although you should not rely on your phone’s GPS (see side-note at the top of this post) for backcountry navigation, if you do want to record your tracks with your phone or otherwise use its GPS, GPS Essentials is hands-down the most feature-rich GPS app out there. The above video has  a nice review of the app. A few of the features:

  • Navigate, manage waypoints, tracks, routes, build your own dashboard from 45 widgets.
  • Shows navigation values such as: Accuracy, Altitude, Speed, Battery, Bearing, Climb, Course, Date, Declination, Distance, ETA, Latitude, Longitude, Max Speed, Min Speed, Actual Speed, True Speed, Sunrise, Sunset, Moonset, Moonrise, Moon Phase, Target, Time, TTG, Turn.
  • Show the orientation of the earth’s magnetic field, shows an arbitrary tracking angle and the current target. Also a marine orienteering compass.
  • Record tracks and view them on map. Export KML files and import into Google Maps, Google Earth and others.
  • Manage routes and view them on map. Import KML files from Google Maps, Google Earth and others. Create turn-by-turn instructions between waypoints.

GPS Essentials App: Android | Website Cost: Free iPhone Alternative: MotionX-GPS ($2.99)

2. My Nature Animal Tracks

It can be exciting when you discover animal tracks out in the woods. But if you haven’t studied tracks before, you’re left to guessing what tracks you are looking at. (This happened to me last year when I saw some cougar tracks in the snow).

The My Nature Animal Tracks let’s you easily identify the tracks you’ve found.  ”Search by track size and shape in seven different illustrated categories to identify over 46 animals across North America. View actual tracks in the wild, reference illustrated gait patterns, range maps, digital images of animals and listen to each animals vocalazation”.

My Nature Animal Tracks App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: $5 Android, $7 iPhone

1. Geocaching

Geocaching is a really fun activity I’ve posted about before. The concept is very simple. You load the GPS coordinates for a ‘cache’ onto your handheld GPS or smartphone, use the provided hints, and go and try and find the cache, usually hidden in the woods or on a trail. There are different types of geocaches ranging in difficulty, but its the perfect way to have some leisurely fun in the outdoors, especially with kids.

Geocaching.com is the de-facto place to post and find new geocaches, and the smartphone app allows you to find nearby caches using your phone’s GPS. You can view hints, record your activity history, and more.

Geocaching App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: $9.99 Android Alternative (Free): C:Geo


How to Make a PVC Pipe Birdhouse

Being in construction I’ve always had extra pieces of PVC pipe left over from jobs. Most times I just threw them away rather than have a stockpile of pieces that were most often too short to use cluttering up my garage.  A couple weeks back I had a idea to turn a piece into a birdhouse.  It really wouldn’t take much, a short piece of 3 or 4 inch PVC and a cap for each end. Of course as usual I got carried away and instead of a cap at one  I decided to put a clean out to make it easier to clean each Fall.   I did a quick Google search to see if there were any plans floating around and was surprised to find only one which was from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Here’s a link to their page with the original plans created by Dan Mennill.


pvc1I changed the plans just a little to make the length of pipe work out better if you were to make several birdhouses out of a standard 10 foot piece. As I mentioned before I also used a cleanout for the bottom and just a regular cap for the roof.

As you can see by the image I made one from 3 inch PVC and one from a piece of 4 inch. The 3 inch pipe has a 1 1/4 inch hole for chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, wrens or Downy Woodpeckers. The 4 inch pipe has a 2 inch opening for lager birds such as a Red Headed Woodpecker.  Since PVC is so smooth the most important thing to do is to roughen up the inside of the pipe on the entrance side. I used a dremel with a small grinder bit and made horizontal grooves from the bottom of the pipe to just above the hole. The fledglings will need a toe hold to get to the entrance to leave the nest. Without this roughed up surface the chicks surely would be trapped inside the nest so make sure you roughen it up pretty well before you put the caps on each end.  Your also going to want to roughen up the exterior of the pipe around the hole so the birds coming to the house can also have a toehold. A piece of 80 grit sand paper will also do the trick. Here’s what you’ll need;

  • one 11 3/4 inch length of 3 or 4 inch PVC
  • one PVC cap
  • one PVC cleanout assembly (threaded hub and threaded coupling)
  • PVC cement

Drill either a 1 1/4 (for 3 inch PVC) or 2 inch hole (for 4 inch PVC) down approximately 1 1/2 pipehouse22inches from the bottom edge of your cap. Make sure you roughened up the inside before gluing on the caps.  Apply a liberal amount of glue your PVC cap and cleanout assembly and attach then to your pipe.  On the back side of the pipe I cut in two keyhole slots, one near the top and one near the bottom. The keyhole slots will allow the birdhouse to slide over two nails that you put into the tree.  The extra nail at the bottom will stabilize the house from any unnecessary movements.


I went a little further and took my dremel tool and carved lines into the pipe to give the impression of birch bark.  I cut the top off a black ink pen, squeezed out some ink on a paper plate and used a toothpick to rub ink into each horizontal line.  You can go a little further even and get birchhousesome birch bark off a dead downed tree and use contact cement to adhere it to the PVC to really simulate a birch branch or trunk. I may do a few up myself that way and post them here.

The house I built on this page is made from Schedule 40 PVC which can get a little expensive. There’s really no need to use such a heavy duty pipe, I only did because I already had the pipe. If you want to make a few of these up you should purchase the more economical thin walled PVC which you’ll find at any building supply store. They’ll also have all the fittings you will need as well. If you purchased a 10 foot piece of 3 inch thin walled PVC you should be able to build your first house for approximately $17.00 excluding tax and glue.  Each additional house after that will only cost you around $8.00 bucks because all you have to buy for each house are the end caps.

You don’t have to disguise them as birch bark either, you can paint them any color but remember the darker the color the hotter it will be inside the birdhouse. Since this type design is pretty much water tight there isn’t a need for drain holes at the bottom but you can still drill a few into the bottom of the clean out and a few holes just under the edge of the top coupling for air circulation. Unlike wood These PVC pipe birdhouses will  last a lifetime and beyond.

Happy Birding !!

A nice mention from the National Wildlife Federation.

14 Apps That Will Revolutionize Your Walk in the Woods

from Wildlife Promise

iPhone in NatureMany argue that smartphones are keeping kids out of the woods and locked up behind their screens. However, these devices and the new mobile apps they put at our fingertips assist us in a lot of different ways, even when you’re out of the house and in the wilderness. You can read some thoughts around NWF’s findings in the report Friending Fresh Air: Balancing Nature and Technology.

While exploring nature is often regarded as a tech-free activity, it’s great to know that in the 21st century there are tech-savvy tools that help can us enjoy nature and wildlife in a whole new way.

Here are 14 apps that will turn even the most urban person into a naturalist in no time.


trailhead1. The North Face Trailhead App

The outdoor apparel retailer The North Face has launched an exploratory trail-finding app for iPhone. Its function is to help users find and share the best paths and routes for hikers, skiers, fly fishermen, and others who don’t want to get lost when they head for the hills. The free app enables users to search by activity type and distance, proximity (either from your current location using GPS or by zip code), and user ratings. The database of routes is pulled from EveryTrail.com, a platform for swapping trails with fellow enthusiasts.


2. Florafolio

The ultimate native plant resource for nature enthusiasts is now available as an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Florafolio is an interactive guide that allows users to focus on the stunning variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, vines, and grasses indigenous to Eastern Canada and the Northeastern region of the US. It’s an excellent directory for anyone who’s looking to identify native plant species in the wild.


Ibirdplus3. iBird Plus Guide to Birds

Designed for both iPhone and iPad, iBird Plus is one of the more pricier apps, at $14.99. However its database has a total of 938 species so it’s far more extensive than some of the other bird apps available today.


wildlab4. WildLab Bird

Not as extensive as the iBird Plus, WildLab Bird is a free app that can identify 200 species of birds. It engages learners with the basics of bird identification. Along with associated curricula and educational activities found on the WildLab.org Web site, WildLab Bird is a powerful way to see the environment in a whole new way.


LeafSnap5. Leafsnap

Leafsnap, free on iOS, is a comprehensive nature-guide app that features an extensive directory of North American plants. You can rifle through the directory manually, and filter the species by leaf shapes, flowers, fruit, and so on. Tapping an entry takes you to a photo-rich data page that displays examples of the plant’s bark and seeds. There is also a text description of habitats and bloom times.


MyNatureAnimalTracks6. MyNature Animal Tracks

Priced on upwards of $8 USD, according to naturalist D. Thomas this is “a must-have app for anyone outdoors.” MyNature Animal Tracks allows users to identify any animal track in your area when you reference this well-made guide. It is chock-full of great information and photos that are not just illustrations, but actual photographs of a wide variety of animal tracks.


inature7. iNaturalist

Explore! Learn! Record on Androids! iNaturalist allows you to record your observations from the natural world for free and contribute them to iNaturalist.org, a social network for naturalists. Users can get started quickly by reviewing the app’s guide. A recent update was added in June 2013.


projectnoah8. Project Noah

Free for iPhones and Androids, Project Noah is the best way to share your wildlife encounters and help document our planet’s biodiversity. Naturalists can upload their own wildlife photos or review those uploaded by others from across the globe.


trails9. Trails-GPS Tracker

Trails-GPS Tracker is the first GPS app that allows you to record, export, and import tracks directly on your iPhone! Prepare and review your outdoor adventures on the iPad as well, since there’s an easy exchange between iPhone and iPad. Priced at $3.99, Trails was first released five years ago, so it’s had several upgrades.


treebook10. TreeBook

TreeBook is the authoritative guide to 100 of the most common trees in North America. It was produced by veteran forester Steve Nix (of forestry.about.com fame), and developed by Ash Mishra (developer of the very popular CBC Hockey and CBC Radio apps). This free application’s easy, intuitive interface provides a way to determine the type of tree you’re looking at — with images, search, synonyms for trees, layman terms, and, for the more scientifically minded, detailed terminology.


wheresabear11. Where’s a Bear

Available for 99 cents, Google’s Android smartphone and their developers Blackbonnet have just launched an app called Where’s a Bear. It’s a great service for tourists who want to track wildlife sighting alerts for not only those big old scary grizzly bears, but any other species of your choice. Its intent is to allow users to maximize their Yellowstone vacation time by taking the guesswork out of finding the best places to see the park’s primary residents.


Yellowstone National Park The Official Guide on the App Store on iTunes12. Yellowstone Wildlife

The Yellowstone Wildlife app which doesn’t include the “finding the bear” feature (noted above) is now also available on iPhones and iPads as well as Androids. You can obtain real-time updates of Yellowstone wildlife sightings for free.


natgeobirdsicon13. National Geographic Birds

Now available for $9.99, National Geographic Birds was designed for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. It offers an innovative, beautiful, and interactive field guide to the birds of North America. Whether you’re new to bird watching or already an expert, this completely updated and redesigned app makes spotting, identifying, and understanding birds easier than ever.


Wildobs14. WildObs Observer

Check out more than 1,000 species of mammals, birds, snakes, bugs, worms, WildObs Observer. Designed by Neukadye, this free iPhone app lets you record wildlife and contribute them both to your database, and to National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Watch program. It’s a neat experience to learn what naturalists around you are seeing and uploading.

If you’ve never taken that walk in the woods prior to reading this blog, perhaps these innovative apps will motivate you to do so now. Whether you have a passion for flowers, trees, plants, mammals, birds reptiles, rocks, or anything in between, technology can be your friend when you take that next fork in the road.

Drew Hendricks

About the Author

This is a guest post by Drew Hendricks, an environmental and tech addict that has written for a variety of publications including Technorati, Forbes and Huffington Post.



Feline or Canine? How to Identify their Tracks

Canine and Feline tracks are probably the most confusing tracks you’ll find yet with just a little knowledge you can be an expert at identifying each.  Carefully studying the image below you should be able to pick out a few of the different features each animal track displays.

tracks canine felineLooking at the feline track above you should notice the following;

  • There are no claws showing. Cats tracks seldom show claws since their claws are felineretractable. This is true for all cats including Mtn. Lions, Bobcat, Lynx and domestic cats
  • The heel pad of felines will show three lobes on the back edge and usually two lobes on the front edge. If you look closely it resembles an “M”.
  • The overall shape of the track is appears round or as wide as it is long.


Looking at the canine track you should notice;

  • Four distinct claw marks at the end of each toe.canine
  • The front of the heel pad has only one single lobe and the back edge of the heel pad has only two lobes.
  • The overall appearance of the track is rectangular.



If there are claw marks present then it’s a safe bet it’s a canine. However, there is one exception to that rule, Gray Fox. Gray Fox have semi- retractable claws so you’ll want to also check the number of lobes on the heel pad to be sure. The majority of the time though their claw marks will be present in their track.  The following measurements might help if you want to distinguish what species of canine or feline your trying to identify.


  • Domestic Cat -  1 to 1 1/2 inches long or wide
  • Bobcat -  2 inches long or wide
  • Lynx – 3 1/2 to 4 inches long or wide
  • Mtn. Lion – 3 to 4 1/2 inches long or wide


  • Gray Fox -  1 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches long
  • Red Fox -  1 3/4 inches wide by 2 1/4 inches long
  • Gray Wolf – 3 3/4 inches wide by up to 5 inches long
  • Coyote -  2 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches long
  • Domestic Dog -  Variable size from a small lap dog, 1 inch long to a full size St. Bernard that could measure up to 5 inches long.

In most parts of North America canine tracks will surely be the majority of tracks you’ll find. However, knowing the difference between feline and canine tracks and what to look for, you may just be in for a treat and discover Bobcat or if you’re really lucky a nice set of Mtn. Lion tracks.  Good luck and Happy Tracking!!


10 Things to do with your used Christmas Tree

xmas treeOnce again Christmas has come and gone and the one thing left you can’t return sadly is the tree. Rather than just toss it out to the curb here are 10 environmentally friendly things you can  turn that  unwanted Christmas Tree into.

Stand your tree up outdoors to use as cover or a resting spot for birds. It should go feedercoverwithout mentioning to take any tinsel that you may have used off the tree. If you have bird feeders place the tree several feet away from the feeder.

You want to place it far enough away that the squirrels wont be able to jump from the tree to your feeder, unless of course you don’t mind feeding the squirrels. It doesn’t hurt to hang a little suet from the branches as well.



Attach some branches to an existing feeder for photo opps. That’s a little trick I learned a few years back. You can use a wire staple to attach the branch to your feeder. If you project the branch upwards over the feeder it works best. This way you can get a great natural looking picture of birds without the feeder in the picture. No one will ever know your shooting pics right from your bird feeder.

Use the needles to make potpourri. This works especially well if you had a potpourriBalsam for your tree. You don’t need anything special, some old socks or nylon stockings work great. Strip or shake as many needles off the tree as you would like and simply place them in your sock. If the scent starts to subside just knead the sock or stocking with your hands and fingers to crush the needles and release more new scent.


Make your own fire starters. If you do any kind of camping or have a fireplace in your home you can’t go wrong making your own fire starters. All you need are some empty egg crates and old candles, crayons or wax that you can melt down. While your melting your wax down fill each space in the empty egg eggcratecarton up with needles from your tree. You can break up small twigs as well but they have to be very small.  Once your wax is melted carefully pour it into each space in your egg carton and let it harden.firestarters Once hardened simply pull the egg carton apart and you have 12 individual fire starters. You can leave the cardboard from the carton on or off, they certainly light easier if you leave the cardboard on, just trim the excess off the tops to make them more compact for storage.


Create a shelter for small animals. If you have any kind of yard at all just drag the tree over to the corner somewhere and leave it for birds and other small animals to nest or hide in. You can break off the branches and lay them against the trunk in a teepee pattern to create a space for rabbits or other small animals to hide.suettrunk


Use the trunk to make a suet feeder. You can get as creative as you want to with this one. You can make hanging feeders or simply cut the trunk into 2 or 3 foot lengths and stand them on the ground. Drill anywhere from 1/2 to 1 inch holes into the trunk with a spade bit and fill the hole suet or peanut butter. The birds will love you for it!


bughouseMake a bug house with the branches. Cut enough branches off the tree to make  bundles 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 12 to 16 inches long. Strip all the smaller twigs off the branches so they will fit tighter together. Wrap the twigs up tight with string and hang them in a tree or place them in some bushes or in your garden. You could also take old birch bark (from downed trees of course) and wrap that around your bundle of sticks and then wrap string around that to hang up. You may have moths, butterflies, bees or lady bugs move in which are all beneficial to your garden plants and flowers..

Make your own mulch. This one works better if you can collect several trees from your neighbors. If you don’t have a chipper rent one from your local hardware or rental store. Use the wood chips to dress up your yard or garden.

Enjoy a Spring or Fall fire.  Probably the least environmentally friendly thing to do with your used Christmas Tree but it keeps that warm Christmas feeling alive for a little extra while. Cut the trunk up into small logs, break the branches into kindling and let the wood dry. Kick back with someone you love on a cool Spring night, pour a glass of wine  and listen to the Peepers while you sit around the fire.

groundblindBuild a ground blind for photography.  This is one of my favorites since I enjoy photography and it’s simple. Since where I live it’s pretty wooded I have several ground blinds in various places. The best blinds are the ones where I used two trees from consecutive years. I have a collapsible stool I carry with me that fits nicely in my blinds. If your like taking wildlife pics then a natural blind is definitely the way to go.

You probably have a few ideas now of things to do with your used  Christmas Tree at least we hope so.  They grace our home and holidays with their beauty, hopefully they can serve a  another purpose in Nature for the coming seasons.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


5 Best iPhone Apps for Hikers

We recently had the honor of being mentioned in an article by Jack Charles. Thanks Jack for the mention!
Published by on October 4, 2013  | 4 Responses

If you’re an Apple-loving hiker, you’ll love these iPhone apps for tracking your hikes and helping you in the great outdoors. From apps that tell you where you are in the world to apps that track your elevation, these five iPhone apps are the 21st century hiker’s best trail buddies.Best iphone Apps for Hiking

1. Gaia GPS by TrailBehind

One of the challenges well-known to hikers when it comes to using cell phone apps is the lack of cellular service in remote areas. For this reason, plenty of hikers eschew apps for hiking altogether. After all, what good is an app you can’t actually use when you’re in a remote wilderness area? Gaia GPS, however, allows users to download maps from all over the world onto their iPhones so that the map and its related information will be available in the middle of the hike, even when you’re in the middle of nowhere. With or without a cell phone signal, you’ll still be able to use the GPS function, which means that as long as the map has been downloaded ahead of time, Gaia GPS will be able to tell you where you’re at. Additionally, Gaia GPS will note points of interest on the map with detailed information about each spot.

There’s a free version of this app that’s ad-supported, or you can make an investment of $19.99 for the full version of the app. The full version also gives users access to special trail maps within a given area. A lot of fans of this app say that the hefty price tag is worth it.

2. Point de Vue by Sen:Te

Point de Vue was made specifically with mountain lovers in mind. For those hikers who like to know where and how high up the surrounding mountains are, Point de Vue will help. It provides detailed information about the elevation, distance and summit of all the mountain peaks within a 125-mile radius from where the hiker is standing. The great part about Point de Vue is that it works great even in cloudy weather.

Reviewers of this app state that its $1.99 price is a real bargain for the amount of information it provides.

3. U.S. Army Survival Guide by Double Dog Studios

If you get caught in a bad storm during your hike, do you know how to make an emergency shelter? Do you know how to find water? Can you tell the difference between a poisonous wild berry and a friendly one? With this app, you’ll have access to all of that information and much more. This app contains more than 1,400 pages from an actual military survival guide. App Store reviews give this $1.99 app almost universally high ratings.

4. GotoAID First Aid by Jargon Ltd.

The U.S. Army Survival Guide is a well-rounded guide with information to cover almost every situation. GotoAID is more specific, focusing just on first-aid for pets and humans, but it contains detailed, step-by-step instructions for nearly every emergency, complete with illustrations. GotoAID is especially useful for hikers who travel with their dogs as a large section of this first aid guide is devoted to animals. Furthermore, this is an app that might come in handy during a hike, but it’s also just as much use at home. It’s an all-purpose first-aid guide for humans, dogs and cats.

Start with the free version of this app. If you like what you see, you can upgrade to the full, award-winning version for $4.99.

5. MyNature Animal Tracks by MyNature Inc.

Did you see that paw print in the mud? Was that a mountain lion or just somebody’s big dog? Keeping MyNature Animal Tracks on your phone will help you to identify the scat, prints, sounds and glimpses of the wildlife around you on your hike. Billed as a nature guide that fits in the palm of your hand, the Animal Tracks is the latest of several great apps for outdoors-types by MyNature. Once you’ve identified the animal that you’ve seen evidence of, Animal Tracks will give you range maps, lifecycle information and other interesting tidbits about the animal you see.

A lot of reviewers object to this app’s $6.99 price. However, hikers and nature lovers will be more than happy to pay the price for this thorough app that’s perfect for wildlife watchers.

These five apps are some of the very best on the market for hikers. However, there are many other great apps for hikers out there. Do you know of some? Share your favorites in the comments section below.

Woolly Bears and the Winter Weather

I’m sure you’ve heard the old wives tale about the Woolly Bear caterpillars ability to predict the winter weather. The wider the brown middle band is, the milder the winter. Well, since I didn’t have any immediate plans for the  weekend I decided I may as well startwoollybowl25 my own study and see just how accurate a Woolly Bear can be. Really I just love projects and this sounded kind of fun and it gave me an excuse to go outdoors. I grabbed an old cool whip container and the hunt was on. Finding Woolly Bears in the Fall really isn’t a tough task, the best places to look are around rocks, rock walls, flower gardens and sidewalks.  My goal was to collect 25 Woolly Bears and measure their mid sections as well as the black bands on their head and tail. If they were to predict a mild winter then the middle brown or sometimes orange/brown band would have to be at least half the body length. The average body length of a Woolly Bear in a relaxed resting position is 1 1/2 inches long. That means we would need to get an average length of 3/4 of an inch or more on the brown band on our collection. Lets see what our measurements added up to.

Average black head band length – 0.44 inches or about 7/16ths of  an inch.

Average black tail band length -  0.325 inches or about 5/16ths of an inch

Average brown middle band length – 0.645 inches or about 5/8ths of an inch

measure1Judging by the figures above according to the Woolly Bear folklore we should be in for a harsh winter.    Damn! and here I was hoping for a mild one.  The interesting thing about those averages is that there were 8 specimens that measured 3/4 of an inch or more in length. Subjects #10 and #14 both measured a full inch long at the mid section, nearly twice as long as the majority of our caterpillars. Most of our caterpillars, 10 total, measured a solid 1/2 inch long at the mid section.


Not to get discouraged (after all I want a mild winter) I set out the next day to collect as many Woolly Bears as I could find in 30 minutes. This time I would count the brown segments and approach it from that angle. I managed to round up 28 caterpillars. Yes, some could have been the same ones as the day before but who could tell, they all look alike.  A Woolly Bears body has 13 distinct segments to it.  Technically we would need to find that 7 segments were brown to predict a mild winter, it wasn’t looking good.

Average black head segments – 4.678 2woollybears

Average black tail segments – 3.25

Average brown segments – 5.035

I really shouldn’t have included specimen #17 because he had only 2 black head segments no black tail segment and a whopping 11 brown segments. If I hadn’t included him our average brown segments would have been closer to four.  Nearly half, 12 of our caterpillars had only 4 brown segments.  There were a total of eight subjects that had 6 brown body segments. All this again according to folklore points toward a hard winter.  (Insert sad face here.)

Some interesting things I learned with my little study:

  • Woolly Bears crap a lot and you’d be surprised at just how big a poop a little caterpillar can do.
  • No matter how hard you try you can’t get a Woolly Bear to uncurl with your finger.
  • You can however get a Woolly Bear to uncurl by placing in him in your cupped hand, cup over that hand with your other one and gently blow long breaths into your hands. Usually by four long breaths you’ll feel the caterpillar start to move. woollypoop
  • Woolly bears crap a lot. Did I say that already?

We’ve already got our calendar marked for next year to do another little study. We’ll find out shortly if the Woolly Bear is right and the winter of 2013-2014 is a harsh one and if they really can predict the winter weather.

Stay tuned!


 Update 1/30/2014

I chose that nice blue color to match the temperatures outside…… it is FREEZING!!  I don’t remember a colder winter than this one. We’ve had some significant snowfall early in the season and then a lot of freezing rain and a lot of below zero days. So the score on the first year of our study is 1 zip. The Woolly Bears have this winter correct, harsh no doubt.

Update 4/22/2014

Believe it or not the snow just melted, winters here in the Adirondacks seem to last forever. Those caterpillars sure had this winter pegged. It was long, it was cold, it was snowy!!




Waiting on the Wind

On the verge.
You can feel the excitement
you can see it in their color.
Pure white, the purest
the white of cotton, of goose down
of impending snows.
milkweedblogAs so much life ends
the flowers
the grasses
the falling leaves
theirs is but to begin 
their journey
Waiting on the wind
To carry them away
effortlessly, floating
suspended in a promise
A promise  to carry them
hold them
to set them free, to explore
to grow
where the soil is fertile and the soaking rains fall
The whitest of whites
a seed
a simple seed, yet I feel the excitement.
The wind stirs
the leaves rattle
a journey begins.

Page Jumps and Anchor Points Made Simple

There’s one thing for sure if your blogging and that’s that at some point in time your going to want to make use of page jumps or anchor points.  So what is a page jump or anchor point? Simply put it’s a link from one spot in your blog article to another spot in the same blog article. Page jumps eliminate the need to scroll through the whole article to find a certain subject your interested in reading. On my blog for example I usually keep a day to day journal when I go on a trip. I’ll start the blog off with a table of contents like format that will look something like this.
Day 1 ~ Proxy Falls
Day 2 ~ North to the Coast
Day 3 ~ Exploring the Bluffs
My description of Day 1, 2 and 3 etc., will be further down the page. When you have several days listed or many subject titles listed in a long article that your writing your going to want to link the title to the body of the post with that titles information  ie: Day 3 ~ Exploring the Bluffs becomes a link to the actual write up of Day 3 where I explored the bluffs. 
Are you still with me?   Don’t be scared, I’ve been to enough other sites that try to explain this and I’m left sitting there with my mouth hanging open wondering what the hell they’re talking about. Some sites get way too technical and assume you know how to write code so take a deep breath and I’ll see if I can make this easier to explain than most.
And here we go!
 I’m going to assume your using Word Press.  At the top of the toolbar in the right hand corner you’ll   see two selections, Visual and Text. Write your blog as you normally would in the “Visual” selection. Once your blog is written click on the “Text” option. Your now going to see your blog article in HTML format, no big deal and don’t get nervous. If you take a minute to just scroll through there you’ll see all that you wrote is still there in plain English, it’s just intertwined with bits of code.
Now locate in there the title that you want to make as the link (page jump). Just for example we are going to use  Day 3 ~ Exploring the Bluffs. We need to insert this piece of code before the title.
<a href=”#3″>
Our title should now look like this,
<a href=”#3″>Day 3 ~ Exploring the Bluffs
We still need to insert one more piece of code after the title and that code looks like this:
Our whole title should now look exactly like this:
<a href=”#3″>Day 3 ~ Exploring the Bluffs<a/>

Now of course your going to want to customize this to your blog and what you want to link. So lets just say your writing a blog on flyfishing and you have several paragraphs or chapters. It’s easiest if you always use numbers for chapter or paragraphs or the points that you want to link from. So lets say chapter one is on “Fly Tying”, your code would look this:

<a href=”#1″>Fly Tying</a>

Chapter 2 is on “Casting to the Rise”, your code would look like this:
<a href=”#2″>Casting to the Rise</a>
Chapter 15 is on “How to Read the Currents”, your code would look like this:
<a href=”#15″>How to Read the Currents</a>
Yes, it’s that simple to make the title link, just change the numbers of the links and change the titles, all the rest of the code remains exactly the same. Pay attention to spacing that’s important. If you don’t have the spacing where it’s needed the link won’t work.
Now, for the second part of the page jump. This is where the link above is going to link to, also called an anchor, it’s where the link we made above is going to “jump” to. This is just as easy with a small piece of code needed as well.  Scroll down through your content and find where you want the link to go. As in the example above were going to use  “Day 3 ~ Exploring the Bluffs” 
Before the title we enter this code:
<a name=”3″></a>
Our title should now look like this:
<a name=”3″></a>Day 3 ~Exploring the Bluffs
That’s it!!  All you do is substitute your titles for the ones I used as an example, for instance lets use “Casting to the Rise” that we used above. We labeled that title number “2″  so our code would read as follows:
<a name=”2″></a>Casting to the Rise
You only need to change the number in the code to match the corresponding number you used above for the original link and change the title each time to match the title of that same link.  So lets put them together so you can see it better. We’ll use “Casting to the Rise” as an example and number it  8.
Our code will look like this for the link:
<a href=”#8″>Casting to the Rise</a>
and that link will jump to the content of “Casting to the Rise” and that code will look like this:
<a name=”8″></a>Casting to the Rise
One thing to pay attention to while you’re in “Text” mode. If you have any other words or codes before or after your links you just created make sure you have a space between them. I’ll use an example of what I have run into in my own blog. Often times I see  <address><address> or something like that before and after my titles or paragraphs. You want to make sure these do not run into your code.  Space everything before your code and after your code in both the starting link and the anchor point that the link jumps to. For example if you see your title listed like this <address>Casting to the Rise<address>. You want to space that out before you enter your code. It may look like this when your done <address>      <a href=”#8″>Casting to the Rise</a>      <address><address>    Just put a lot of space between them. the same goes for the anchor point or where the link jumps to.
 I hope that was an easy lesson and I certainly hope it helps you out if your trying to create page jumps and anchor points.  You can see how I used mine here in these two blog posts.
Happy Blogging!!