There is a new reality show on the tv these days,
called "Corkscrewed: the Wrath of Grapes". In the show the two
producers of the reality show "American Idol," Nigel
Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, buy a vinyard near Paso Robles California, and
proceed to have everything go wrong with their plan to be vintners.
Their grape contracts are cancelled, the heat kills their owls, and
gophers start to take over the vinyard. The rodent disaster is saved
when an inventor from Idaho drives in to save the day. That man is Ed
Meyers, President of an Idaho company that sells a rodent control
product called the Rodenator.
The producers feel a little sorry for the furry
critters for a few minutes, then when they think of the $6 million they
have riding on the harvest, they are all for nuking the gophers, at
which time Ed is happy to provide the pyrotechnics. Ed is shown in
three episodes of the show that I have seen, and solves at least one of
their many problems.
The Rodenator is a portable device which mixes oxygen
and propane, and sends a swirling mixture into the rodent burrows. A
spark from the device ignites the gases, and the borrows for up to 300
feet are blown up, instantly killing the gophers, ground squirrels, or
other borrowing pest. The Rodenator website has more information about the device, including videos of the device in action.
Recently British adventurers Steven Brooks and Graham
Stratford built a specialized vehicle which could cross the Bering
Straights from Alaska to Russia, and could traverse water, ice, snow,
and the tangled masses of ice ridges that can occur in that area. It
could also climb out of the water onto the ice shelf. Their adventure
is showcased at the team's Ice Challenger site. The vehicle was a Bombardier snow grooming vehicle, driven by tracks, to which was added a screw propulsion system.
I had thought the Russians had pioneered screw propulsion vehicles,
and wrote a blog post with pictures of their vehicles. Recently I
found out that the original screw propulsion vehicle was designed in
1944, during WWII, by Johannes Raedel, a member
of the German Army and veteran of the Eastern Front with Russia.
(Note: Raedel was originally spelled R'a'del, with an umlaut). He had observed that in the deep snows of Russia, tanks
would dig out the snow under the tracks, and the tank would become high
centered on snow pressed under the belly of the tank.
According to Siegfried Raedel, son of Johannes..."The idea evolved while looking at a meat mincer,
also employing a screw type of compression. He convinced army headquarters in
Berlin to allow him to make a prototype of this machine. At that time, Austria
was annexed to Germany already and he was dispatched to the Austrian Alpine
vehicle test centre at St. Johann in Tyrol. Using whatever materials were
available he built this prototype during the period of 10th Feb 1944 to 28th
April 1944. It was tested extensively and the first page of this report is
attached, together with a few pictures of the original. It was very slow, but it
would pull 1 ton! It also had good climbing capabilities. It would penetrate
about 30cm into the snow, no more."
photos below are of Johannes testing the vehicle in Tyrol. The woman
and children were at a lodge at the top of a mountain, which the
vehicle had climbed during testing.
Siegfried pointed out that "something in the order of 7 tons
of patent papers were taken out of Germany after the war. What amazes me though
is the fact that both the US and Russia seem to have had access to these papers
- and this during the cold war period!"
The page below is the first page of Johannes' report on the vehicle.
The region aroung Mora, Sweden, has been known for
centuries as a source of quality steel articles, including knives.
About 110 years ago Erik Frost began making knives and developed a
style that became popular. This general style of knife is called a
Mora knife and is still made by two companies in Mora that trace their
anscestry from Erik Frost. The companies are Frost Knivfabric and
Eriksson Knives. Mora knives have become a favorite for all outdoor
activities, including Scandinavian construction workers, foresters, and is a real favorite of survival and bushcraft folks.
knives come in several variations, with plastic handles, in a version
with a laminated steel blade, and in the traditional wooden handle
handle shown above. I learned about Mora knives from my friend Bryan,
who told me and my backpacking class about the reputation of Mora
knives being used to cut down trees by pounding the full tang knife
into the tree, then pounding it back and forth to cut wood fibers. It
is also reputed to be able to be driven into a tree, then support a
man's weight on it. That seems like a stretch to me, but you'll find
reference to people testing that claim.
On a hike the fall of '06 we found a tree that
had a cut off branch wound that had become fat wood, from saturated and
dried sap. We used a rock to pound Bryan's Mora knife into the hard
wood to chip out lengths of fat wood. Not many knives would take that
kind of abuse.
The more inportant thing is that the knife
comes wicked sharp out of the box, holds an edge, is easy to sharpen,
and is tough and durable. My Mora knife has a snug fitting plastic
sheath, and can be worn on the belt or hanging around the user's neck.
It has laminated steel, with the center steel being harder, sandwiched
between two layers of softer steel. The combination results in a knife
that holds an edge, and is very tough. The knife has the traditional
Scandinavian bevel on the edge, rather than being hollow ground like a
lot of knives. To sharpen it, you put all the metal of the bevel
portion on the stone, and remove metal from the entire bevel. That
means removing a little more metal, but it also means that the angle
set at the factory remains constant after many sharpenings.
a backpacker, I'm more used to Swiss Army knives and folders than fixed
blade knives, but having a razor sharp fixed blade knife makes some
camp chores go well, like cleaning fish and fire building. Its very
light, and now I wouldn't think of hiking without it. The big surprise
is.... it sells for less than $20, and often closer to $10. You'll see
Mora knives on ebay, and knife sellers on the web. Get a Frost or
Eriksson Mora knive and let me know how you like it.
The best designs are the ones that make you say "I
wish I'd thought of that!" They are also usually dead simple, and
probably quite a bit more subtle than they appear. The Press-Bot
coffee maker is all that, and it makes good coffee too. Camp coffee
is always great, but coffee made from grounds in a French press is
wonderful. Since the Press Bot operates with a standard 1 liter wide
mouth Nalgene bottle, that means you can make enough great coffee for
three or four people at once, so it is also a very efficient method.
This summer I was at Kane Lake in Idaho teaching my son to fly fish,
sitting on a rock having a great cup of coffee. It doesn't get any
better than that. This little gadget weighs only a few ounces, and I
carry a Nalgene bottle anyway, so it is very practical even for