Category: Tips & Lore

How to Do Crack

I don’t eat eggs all that often and I find that I make a mess of cracking them when I do. Apparently it is better to crack on the counter than on the side of the bowl, as the video linked below clearly demonstrates.

HANDY HINT: If you do mis-crack your egg, a piece of eggshell makes a dandy scoop to retrieve errant flecks of shell from the egg white. It seems to work by some magic force of attraction.

Cooks Illustrated Video: The Right Way to Crack an Egg via Lifehacker

Five Days to Perfect Orderliness

Everything has its place in a rucksack

I used to go backpacking with a friend who was kind of a schlump in daily life but on the trail he was in prefect control. His backpack was amazingly organized – everything had its place. When he needed anything it was instantly at his fingertips.

I made a vow, “someday, somehow, I’m going to get organized like that.” Now, twenty five years later, prompted by a LifeHacker article “The 5S Method Keeps Clean, Lean Order at Your Workspace,” I’m ready to give it a shot.

Last year I tried to implement the Japanese methodology of 5S into my daily life and I failed. I confused 5S with a method for getting things done, which it isn’t. There’s no do stage in 5S. It is primarily a way for organizing your physical space, not your task list. But it can easily be applied to computer files as well.

So here’s my plan, stolen entirely from the Wikipedia definition of 5S, for getting my life in perfect order:

Monday – Seiri, Sorting: Go through all tools, materials, etc., in the plant and work area. Keep only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded.

Tuesday – Seiton, Straighten or Set in Order: There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. The place for each item should be clearly labeled or demarcated. Items should be arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow. Workers should not have to repetitively bend to access materials. Each tool, part, supply, piece of equipment, etc. should be kept close to where it will be used (i.e. straighten the flow path). Seiton is one of the features that distinguishes 5S from “standardized cleanup”.

Wednesday – Seiso, Sweeping or Shining or Cleanliness (Systematic Cleaning): Keep the workplace clean as well as neat. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. This makes it easy to know what goes where and ensures that everything is where it belongs. A key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.

Thursday – Seiketsu, Standardizing: Work practices should be consistent and standardized. Everyone should know exactly what his or her responsibilities are for adhering to the first 3 S’s.

Friday – Shitsuke, Sustaining the discipline: Maintain and review standards. Once the previous 4 S’s have been established, they become the new way to operate. Maintain focus on this new way and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways. While thinking about the new way, also be thinking about yet better ways. When an issue arises such as a suggested improvement, a new way of working, a new tool or a new output requirement, review the first 4 S’s and make changes as appropriate.

Resources: Rowdy Kittens social change through simpler living.

5S Related Resources on Amazon

Crazy Thought Question: Why are all the visual resources linked to 5S so unforgivingly horrible?

Photo credit: Joadl

Free Bird (for Bird Watchers)

Identify birds by shape

If you want to know more about where you live, and thereby know more about who your are, you can start with the birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has the most amazing site, All About Birds – and like some of the best things in life, it’s free!

The site has everything from Birding Basics, answering such questions as what to do when you find a baby bird on the ground, to bird-related articles and multimedia and a terrific online bird guide complete with bird sounds.

The only thing missing is the binoculars.

Bucket o’ Links #3: Tips, Tricks and Hacks






What’s in Your (Survival) Backpack?

Fire starting tool



Jaymi Heimbuch puts together an industrial-strength survival pack, the sort you might need to survive a Haiti-style disaster. There are plenty of good resource links here, plus lots of chatter in the comments. Heimbuch’s main complaint? This first aid, survival kit tips the scales at 30 lbs. (Hint, go with LED flashlights and lose the D cell batteries.)

If you want to travel lighter, or in be prepared in case you get separated from your backpack, search and rescue specialist Michael Neiger lists the essential survival tools you should carry in your pocket.

Photo by Ken Bruker

Hot Around the Collar: Tools for Walking Dogs

I’m hoping Moose will be a good trail dog someday. But first I have to figure out how to take him for a walk, without him walking me.

Here’s what happens: Moose is pretty dialed in with having me as his pack leader. But on walks he becomes very focused on what’s ahead. He starts out at a good heel, but slowly picks up the pace. A quick yank on the leash gets his attention well enough, but soon he’s back in front. I’ve heard that constantly tugging on the leash is about as effective as nagging a teenager to clean his room.

Since I’ve been using a harness on Moose (until he chewed it off this afternoon, my bad for leaving it on him) I decided that I need a collar that offers some kind of correction. At first I considered getting a choke-chain collar. In my experience after one or two corrections the dog responds to the sound of the chain and does not need to be “choked.” However, in Moose’s case I’m pretty sure he could quickly escape a conventional choker collar.

There’s also the prong or pinch collar–which supposedly isn’t as horrible as it looks. But prong collars do look evil and so I’m trying a Martingale collar.

The Martingale collar works by applying even pressure around the neck, supposedly bringing to the dog’s mind a top-dog’s mouth-around-the-throat type of correction. The other benefit of a Martingale collar is that it is more difficult for a dog to slip its head out of the collar. Moose has a big neck, meaning it’s pretty easy for him to back out of a collar.

Already I’m having trouble with Moose’s collar slipping too low on neck–the optimal position is up high behind the dog’s ears. It’s virtually impossible to keep the leash slack and the collar high. Which is why Cesar Millan offers the $$$$ Illusion Collar, certainly worth every penny if it works. But spendy if your dog doesn’t respond to it.

On my first day using the Martingale collar it worked as advertised. Meaning that Moose didn’t back out of it when he went bonkers at the sight of a Pomeranian. But it still doesn’t seem to keep him from tugging on the leash.

We’ll see how the next few days go.

Hope Without Soap

Savon de Marseille soap

Could you go for 130 days without soap…washing your body with just water? Richard Nikoley gave up soap and shampoo about six months ago and reports that the results are amazing. His skin and hair are soft and silky. His wife comments that he smells good!

Nikoley’s post begs some questions.

1. What is Soap Anyhow?

Soap is made from processed oils. Originally these oils were animal fat or certain plant oils. Nowadays some soap products are largely chemical based. Soap, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll, featuring Miracle Soap god Michael Bronner, explains the difference.

2. Is Soap Necessary?

For years the advertising industry played on the deepest fears of women, suggesting that the only solution was to douche with Lysol. I believe the recommended procedure these days is to go au natural.

Soap, of course, isn’t really necessary – neither are baths for that matter. It seems that soap is a matter of preference and any number of Spiffy Moms prefer no soap.

3. When Do You Need to Use Soap?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Via Boing Boing

Minivans – the Number One Choice of Bears Everywhere

Minivan opened like a soda can

Minivan opened like a soda can

The number one choice of discriminating bruins? According to the LA Times black bears in Yosemite have come to think of minivans as their own personal “meals on wheels.” Minivans roll into the park wafting the aroma of spilled Cheerios and milk, and the bears seem to have learned that the classic Mom-missile is your best bet to find a secret stash of Frosted Mini Wheats.

Free Stock Photography – From the Smithsonian!


Good news for lazy bloggers like me! Now the Wikimedia Commons is not the only source for FREE PHOTOGRAPHY you can put on your blog! Thanks to the U.S. Federal government you can have access to almost 7,000 high quality pictures that you already paid for with your tax dollars.

These photos, with a watermark, are easily available through this flickr site. You can download high resolution copies of the images here. But before you download, read the fine print – Smithsonian has a copyright notice on their site, even though “works of the United States Government are in the public domain.” In any case, this looks like a wonderful resource.

Previously: Library of Congress photography archive

What a 3-Year-Old Can Teach You About Wilderness Survival

Woods at top of Horn Canyon

Woods at top of Horn Canyon

In the first week of May this year 3-year-old Joshua Childers decided to go on a hike. His adventure lasted three days and two nights through a heavy rain and in 40 degree temperature in Missouri’s Mark Twain forest, 53 hours in all. When he was found by search teams what he wanted most was a glass of milk. According to doctors there was no reason he should have survived.

It’s unclear exactly what helped Joshua survive exposure. Young Childers didn’t say much, perhaps he’s not a good interviewee, or perhaps he’s got a book and movie deal lined up. News reports, however, reveal a couple of keys to his survival:

There are a few take-aways from Childers’ adventure. For one thing, parents need to be aware of the “only a couple minutes” disaster window of opportunity. Childers’ mother had been on the phone for just a few minutes and that was all the time it took for the child to wander off. Next, if you are going camping or to a park near an open space with young children, spend some time “woodsproofing” them. Finally, if you’re heading into the woods it wouldn’t hurt to learn some basic survival skills.

Things a parent can do to help a child survive being lost in the woods:

  • Teach her to hug a tree – and talk to it. This helps the child calm down and stay in one place. Most children are found within a one mile radius of where they were last seen. Talking to the tree can help rescuers and rescue dogs locate the child.
  • Make a nest. A hole in the ground and a blanket of leaves can help a child survive a long cold night in the woods.
  • Leave a mess. Matted down grass, broken sticks, piles of rocks – these are the things rescuers look for. Normally you want to teach children to “tread lightly” in the wilderness, but when a person is lost the more clues the better.

Know Your Knot

Handy guide tucks in your wallet

Handy guide tucks in your wallet

As I’ve said before, I can’t remember how to tie a knot to save my life. Maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to necktie parties.

Here’s a great tip from Make Magazine’s blog: wallet-sized knot tying reference cards to help you remember whether the rabbit goes over the fence or down the hole.

Another great resource: Knots, Splices and Ropework at Project Gutenberg.

Previously at Wild Rye: Animated Knots by Grog.

Use Witch Hazel to Cure Posion Oak Rash

Poison Oak in the middle red phase

Poison Oak in the middle red phase

Witch hazel is something you may have seen in your mother’s medicine chest, but she probably didn’t tell you why she was using it. Consequently you may not have discovered the extract’s many magical properties.

Fact is, witch hazel is good for a lot of things, some that you can talk about in mixed company and some that are mainly of interest to “us guys.”

Witch hazel is very good for treating a urushiol rash. Urushiol is an oily compound found on poison oak and poison ivy that quickly binds to the proteins in the skin. A rash develops when your body interprets these urushiol-modified skin cells as foreign agents and tries to kill them off. This bonding happens quickly, 10 to 30 minutes after exposure. The rash can take two or three days to appear and might last up to two weeks, untreated.

My trail buddies tell me that a good scrub with Tecnu Extreme Medicated Poison Ivy Scrub will prevent poison oak as long as you do it immediately after exposure. My problem is that I don’t always know when I’ve been exposed – a person can get a rash from oil on clothing, on a hiking stick, backpack or a friendly four legged creature. I’ve never found topical treatments such as calamine or cortisone cream to be effective or helpful. Witch hazel, applied twice daily, is nothing short of miraculous. Instead of a 7 to 14 day spell of tragic itching my most recent poison oak rash cleared up in three days.

I’m guessing that the astringent properties of the witch hazel quickly dry up the blisters, which in turn reduces skin damage and relieves itching. Or it may be the placebo effect. Who cares? As long as it works.

If you’d like to volunteer for further field-testing and research, have a testimonial about the amazing properties of witch hazel, or if you have a poison oak experience that bears retelling, by all means feel free to leave a comment.