In the Sack with Big Agnes

Written by Monkeybrad on March 12th, 2009
1snowtree

A snow angel's view of the world

Big Agnes Encampment +15° Sleeping System
$159.95 @ REI

When it comes to your sleeping arrangements, you can’t be too careful when it comes to climbing into someone else’s sack.  This is especially true, out on the trail, where your choice of sleeping arrangements can be the difference between life and death, or comfort and discomfort in my non-mountaineering world.  I have searched far and wide for a truly comfortable cold-weather bag at a reasonably backpackable weight and I now own a rack full of failed contenders.  They are all great bags, but they fall short somehow.  My 6’3″ more than amply padded frame requires more space than most off the shelf bags allow for, so it has been a challenging search at times.   Like a trailbound Goldilocks I would go from bag to bag, this one was roomy and warm but too heavy;  that one is lightweight but too constrictive and not warm enough.  So the search continued until I finally found one that is, just about right.

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Putting Pots and Pans in their Place

Written by Monkeybrad on March 5th, 2009
rack-high

Industrial Grade Creativity from the Mind of the Monkey

It is often said that the best projects come from scratching an itch you have and that is certainly the inspiration for this one.  My wife and I love to cook, and we are both gear heads, subsequently we have way more pots and pans than we need, or than our small farmhouse kitchen can store.  We considered cutting back on our gourmet accoutrement, but just could not bear the thought of parting with our fajita griddle, extra No. 6 cast iron skillet or monkey-shaped baking pan, so a new storage option was in order.  A quick survey of the kitchen revealed that we had some unused space along the wall under our kitchen table so we set out on a quest for a new pot rack.  We searched high and low, but could not find anything that used the available space well, except for a $200 dollar model from Williams-Sonoma.  So we abandoned that quest and headed over to Lowe’s for some lightbulbs.  While picking up a pack of spiral CFL’s, suddenly a metaphorical lightbulb went off and we decided to make our own Pot Rack, custom designed and built for our available space.

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Science and Magic in the Modern Kitchen

Written by Monkeybrad on February 26th, 2009
plasma

It's poetry in motion...

My wife was giving me a hard time last week, apparently I have been slacking in the cooking department lately, so I decided to treat her to my take on a recipe she made last week, with mixed results.  Since it was Mardi Gras, I decided to revisit a recipe for Cabbage Jambalaya that Mary R. gave us while we were in Thibodaux at the first of the year.  My take on the Jambalaya was great, although I did get it a little too spicy, I have learned, though, that making the exact same dish, only better, is probably not the best way to keep peace in Monkey Manor.  Which got me to thinking about cooking, following recipes and deciding when to blaze your own trail.

We live in an age where simple cooking is becoming a bit of a lost art.  I have friends and family for whom making dinner means grabbing a box out of the freezer or a can out of the cabinet and applying heat to it’s contents.  There is nothing wrong with this, I am all for our brave, modern world filled with such conveniences, but it’s kinda like watching the movie instead of reading the book, it is sort of the same only not as good.  Grandma is on the other end of that spectrum, she almost always starts with a bunch of raw ingredients and uses her experience rather than a recipe to craft her meals.  I settle somewhere in the middle, and here is why…

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Make a Self-Contained Camping Clothesline

Written by Monkeybrad on February 19th, 2009

In use on the Fiery Gizzard trail

This is a silly little diversion, but I enjoyed thinking it out and it is a simple, quick build on the cheap, that delivers a product that may or may not be handy.  Plus, unlike some of my other projects on here, this one requires no special tools or knowledge, so anyone can build one of these in the comfort of their own home.  It has been a while since I sat down and made something, if you don’t count these posts, and have had my eyes open for a project of some sort to clutter up the workdesk.  When I spotted the commercial version of this for sale at Gander Mountain last weekend, I thought it was a thoroughly useless item.  I mean who needs string with some hooks in a 35mm film container, especially for $9.99.  I honestly did not even look at it closely, but while driving home I kept thinking about it and decided to see if I could make a better one on my own.

Like Sam Gamgee, I am a strong believer in carrying a bit of rope, and I try to make it a habit, but even when I do not carry rope, I always try to carry some stout cord.  It weighs less than rope and can be used in all sorts of ways.  I have used cord to strap extra gear on the outside of my pack, to tie down a banging metal cup that I used to carry, to reinforce or repair a broken binding or as a makeshift leash for The Grimm Barguest.  I have also spent countless trailside moments untangling cord that has become unravelled and magically wrapped itself around every item in my pack before finishing with a Gordian flourish.  So the more I thought about a self contained cord storage system, complete with built in hooks, the more appealing it became.  So I gathered up some materials and basic tools and went to work building, breaking, redesigning and nearly perfecting my self-contained camping clothesline.

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Can't Help Falling in Love With You

Written by Monkeybrad on February 14th, 2009

elvis

The first time I noticed her my heart started racing.  I was going over the plans for the production design for a show with the director when suddenly my heart started running a million miles a minute.  I looked around and could not figure out what was happening, I asked him if my color was OK, that I felt funny and my heart was racing and he replied, that it was probably just the pretty young stage manager who had walked up while we were working.  My heart rate slowed to normal and I laughed it off.  A few minutes later this young lady who I had never noticed before approached us again and my heart skipped a beat and started racing again, at that point I decided that maybe I ought to take a closer look…

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Calculated Randomness and the Quest for Understanding

Written by Monkeybrad on February 5th, 2009

clock

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a flurry of “25 Random Things About Me” posts circulating around the social networking sites.  I think it is an  awesome way for people to connect and get to know one another better, but I take issue with the use of the word “random”.  I mean, you get to choose the things you share, and looking at what people choose to share, it is obvious that they are making a calculated effort to show you facets of their personality or life that will portray them in a particular light.  Not quite random, but beautiful, nonetheless. So why do we choose to share these things?

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A Midwinter's Reflection with Hot Bacon Dressing

Written by Monkeybrad on January 30th, 2009

fence

As I look outside, the thermometer is hanging a little below freezing, the wind is whipping through a sky of steely  gray, a typical dreary midwinter’s day.  Not too much to get excited about, it is kind of hard to think about much except staying inside and keeping warm.  A good day for a nice pot of stew, some home-baked bread, a cup of cocoa and curling up by the fire with your sweetheart, or at least a good book.  Then my eye is drawn to what is left of the garden, most of it turned under waiting for a spring planting that seems light years away, but that turned soil, with it’s current coat of frost calls to me with the promise of good things to come.  Of course, this leads my random mind down the path to that first meal of the season made entirely of ingredients from our garden, that day is a big deal for a fellow like me who gave up the farm for more cosmopolitan delights, before discovering I had been living in paradise all along.

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Big Fun on the Bayou

Written by Monkeybrad on January 16th, 2009

Last week, I learned how to do something I had always wanted to do, I learned to shuck oysters, but let’s not get too far ahead of the story…

Each year after Christmas we try to slip away for a caching road trip with friends, it is a nice way to end the year and it helps to start off the new year rested and ready for big things.  We try to not plan things too much and often we are not even sure where we are headed when we pull out of the driveway.  The only rule is that we head generally south and find warmer weather.  This year our wanderings ended up in Southeast Louisiana and son of a gun we had big fun.

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From the French for "toss together"

Written by Monkeybrad on January 9th, 2009

Totally random shot out my sunroof at a stoplight

So here is how this works, sometimes I am inspired to write about things and share them with you, sometimes I am just not feeling it, so I don’t write anything and other times I am terribly inspired about all kinds of things, but there are just not enough hours in the day to do my real work, my play work, my play play and take the time to write about all the things I have been doing or thinking about.  This is one of those times.  So, being extra clever I try to write some extra stuff to have “in the bank” for when life gets too hectic and I can assure you that the bank is full of half-fleshed out ideas, but there is nothing that feels right this week.  I really want to tell you about the things I learned down on the bayou last week, the politics of auto repair and what I learned when I went to the mountaintop, but that will have to wait for a little while.  So what do you get, besides random iPhone pictures and rambling?

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iFarm Art Project

Written by Monkeybrad on January 2nd, 2009

I often get up while the sun is still low in the sky and go for walks around our farm, enjoying the peacefulness of early morning and that beautiful low angle light. Sometimes my wife and I walk with the dog in the afternoon, there is just something about those long shadows we love, the golden hour of the day. Our farm is dotted with equipment left over from my grandfather’s past, old tractors, trucks from his shipping company and all kinds of farming equipment. It always brings a smile to my face to look at these testimonies to a life well-lived, they are reminders of my childhood riding in these trucks with him or helping to work on these tractors. From fully-restored showpieces to little more than junk, Pa collects it all, and he taught me to look beyond the surface rust to see the potential sitting there waiting for a caring hand to bring it back to life. So these walks are a good time for me. Lately, I have taken to snapping photos with the camera in my iPhone and then using the CameraBag app to process them in the phone, to try and capture a little of the beauty I see and the pieces of Pa’s soul sitting in our fields.

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