Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fifteen Blogs You Should Visit

I was recently given the "Stylish Blogger Award" by both Glynn at A Reel Lady and LB at Bullets and Biscuits. I'm honored that they thought of my blog and want to thank them both for including me in their list of recipients! I still consider my blog to be too new and my writing too infrequent to be considered for any kind of award, but I am thankful to be among the chosen. If you've been living in a tree with the Keebler elves and haven't visited these two fine blogs, you need to go hit the follow button. Thank you, ladies!

The recipient of this award needs to perform the following duties:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award. 
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Give the award to 15 recently discovered worthy bloggers.
4. Contact them to make them aware of the award.

I'm going to knock out the seven boring things about me so we can get to the good stuff. Feel free to speed things up by scrolling down now...
  • Journalism was my major during my freshman year of college.
  • I used to do wedding photography as a side job.
  • I've lived in Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, South Korea, and Kentucky (now).
  • I designed and ran websites for six different outdoor groups/individuals.
  • I once went swimming in a natural pool in an underground cavern in the middle of a Saudi Arabian desert. (I can neither confirm nor deny any incidents of camel tipping.)
  • My middle name is of Greek origin and means "sacred name".
  • I can't carry a tune or dance and I hate roller coasters. 

Now that my silliness is out of the way, let me introduce you to the blogs I have chosen to receive the award. Many of the blogs listed by Glynn and LB are the same ones I would have chosen, including theirs. In the interest of not repeating the same cycle, I have tried to choose some blogs that have not been previously awarded. When all previous recipients are naming fifteen blogs, it's difficult not to overlap. Some of these may have been given the award before, but they weren't on the same list as mine. Several of these blogs are new discoveries for me and the others are blogs I have followed for some time.

I hope there are some blogs here you haven't visited yet. If so, go say hi and hit the follow button! Thanks again to Glynn and LB for bestowing the love upon my blog! I appreciate it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Of Lions And Lambs

Okay, they're not exactly lions or lambs, but it sounded better than "of dogs and cats". The symbolism remains the same. Once upon a time, we had a male Doberman named Nash (King's Nashman) and a female American Shepherd named Xena. We also had a male cat named Tucker and a female calico cat named Peepers. They were quite the happy little crew...

Our old couch was turned into the animal couch. As you can see, it was well used. That's Nash and Peepers on the left and Xena and Tucker on the right. (Click to enlarge.)

Nash considered himself a regal gentleman and wasn't above letting the cats share his space.

I pretty sure this isn't quite what he had in mind, though. Tucker is sound asleep, but underneath that leg Nash is very much awake, but too embarrassed to let anyone know.

Of the four in this silly little group, only Tucker is still around. Peepers developed complications from old age and was having violent seizures. We had to have her put down. Nash had contracted Blastomycosis (a fungal infection) when he was just a puppy and we battled it on and off his whole life. Later, we had to have one of his back legs amputated because the Blasto was in his bone. A few days after surgery, we learned he had a blood condition  that prevented his blood from clotting properly. They couldn't stop the bleeding from his amputation and we had to put him down. Xena also contracted Blasto, later in life, and it took one of her eyes and got into her chest. She eventually passed away from the infection.

After Tucker lost his three running mates, we decided he needed some company. He now spends his days hanging out with his Maine Coon buddy, Gunny.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jerky Addiction In The House

Hi! My name is Brian and I do love me some jerky! Jerky is to me what cocaine is to a crackhead - it's addictive! My absolute favorite is homemade venison jerky. When done properly, it can't be beat in my opinion. Give me a bag of jerky, a six pack of beer, and a knife and I could survive a very long time on a deserted island. Well, a couple of days at least. A couple of very happy days!

Unfortunately, homemade jerky normally isn't around in unlimited supply. It doesn't help that I go through it like a starving squirrel through a nut cache. So where do I go to get my jerky fix when I don't have any of my own? My favorite supplier is House of Jerky, bar none!

House of Jerky is owned and operated by a lovely lady named Janie. And HOJ has just about any kind of jerky you could want - beef, venison, turkey, boar, buffalo, salmon, and exotic jerky, including alligator! You can get it in natural, black pepper, teriyaki, hot, and sweet and spicy flavors.

I've had most of the jerky with the exception of salmon and exotics. It's ALL good! While venison remains my all time favorite, the turkey jerky blew me away! Awesome stuff! I'm not a big fan of teriyaki, hot, or spicy flavors in general. That's just my personal preference. It has nothing to do with the jerky itself. However, I have tried all of those flavors from HOJ and they're very good. What I like personally is the black pepper! Holy dried meat, Batman! The black pepper ANYTHING is killer! I'd fight a rabid skunk with both hands tied behind my back to get some of that stuff!

House of Jerky doesn't use any preservatives or funky additives in their products. It's all natural and USDA approved. They slice their jerky, too. It's not chopped, pressed, minced, processed, hammered, stabbed, beat down, slapped, or stomped on. Not only is the jerky excellent, but so is the customer service! On top of that, HOJ is a huge supporter of our troops! They routinely send jerky care packages to our men and women in uniform. You can help with that effort, too. Check it out on their website.

I have to be very careful about ordering jerky for the simple reason I could easily spend too much money! Unlike crackheads who steal to fund their addiction, I come by my money honestly. And HOJ jerky is honestly that good! In fact, I'm starting to twitch and get that craving just from writing this post. It reminds me of what I went through a few years back while getting cured off the Wild Turkey.**

If you're a jerky connoisseur or you just like gnawing on it while slugging a cold beer, you'd probably like what House of Jerky has to offer. Give it a try. If you don't like it, you can send it to me for proper disposal! Guaranteed. 

Here's all the contact info type stuff: 

Twitter: @HouseofJerky
Facebook: House of Jerky

**This is a movie reference only - meant in fun. I had to go to rehab to get cured off the Mountain Dew and pixie sticks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Becker BK2 Review

The Becker BK2 (aka - "Campanion") is part of a knife line designed by Ethan Becker (Becker Knife & Tool) and originally produced by Camillus Cutlery. When Camillus closed its doors for good in 2007, Ethan Becker searched for another company to produce his knives and finally hooked up with KA-BAR in Olean, New York. You will sometimes see the BK2 incorrectly referred to as the "Companion" in various reviews.

Becker BK2 "Campanion"

The knife has an overall length of 10.5", a blade length of 5.5" made from 1095 Cro Van steel, Grivory handles, and it weighs in at one pound. The BK2 has a drop point and an extended tang (the extended tang is on second generation knives). The blade itself is a full quarter inch thick all the way through. 

The BK2 is intended for camp, bush craft, and survival use. It's built like a tank! One survival instructor referred to it as "the Becker train wrecker". I've had my BK2 since early last fall and have thoroughly enjoyed using it! It stays in my B.O.B. (Bug Out Bag) normally and in my hunting pack when I'm in the woods. 

I have found the Grivory handles to be very comfortable. There are after market Micarta scales made specifically for the BK2 and many folks use those. The width of the blade combined with the full belly and overall weight of the knife make chores like chopping rather easy. The BK2 can also be used to baton wood for fires. When performing tasks like chopping, I would recommend using a lanyard. A lanyard will keep the knife from flying out of your hand should you lose your grip and will also allow you to move your hand farther back on the handle giving you greater leverage for chopping.

The drop point of the blade allows for finer knife work and would also work for field dressing game. Would I use this knife to field dress my deer under normal circumstances? No. I have knives specifically designed for that purpose. However, in a true survival situation, the BK2 could handle that chore if necessary.

Second generation BK2's have an extended tang which can be used for a couple of things. First, if you needed to drive the knife point into something, the extended tang gives you a striking surface so you aren't hitting the handle ends. Second, the extended tang could be used as a hammer or glass breaker itself. 

You can see the width of the blade here - 1/4 inch...about the length of a fly.

The knife is made of carbon steel which means it will eventually rust if it's not properly maintained. The BK2 does have a black epoxy coating on the steel which helps to protect it. I take care of my gear regardless of what it's made of so the whole thing is a moot point to me. Carbon steel is well liked and popular in the knife community for outdoor blades because it is easy to sharpen in the field and retains a good edge. Knives are made from many different steels and it's important when selecting a knife to be familiar with the advantages and limitations of the various steels so you can make the correct choice. Don't assume just because a blade says "stainless" that it's the right knife for the job.

Extended tang on the BK2

I've used my BK2 for chopping down small trees, clearing limbs, and hacking on larger logs. It is very comfortable in the hand and feels well balanced. Even though it weighs in at a full 16 ounces, it doesn't feel that heavy. When I pick this knife up, I just get the urge to destroy something! The BK2 is built for work and begs to be used! It's a good thing, too, because it wouldn't win any beauty contests, although its simple design is appealing to me.

Let's be honest about something for a second. The majority of us will never find ourselves in a real life or death survival situation. That stuff is all over TV with the various survival shows, but the odds of that being a reality for most people are pretty low. Do I prepare for a situation like that? Yes. I have certain items on hand at all times and I've had a lifetime of training that keeps me in that mindset, but realistically I'll probably never find myself alone with just my knife in a do-or-die situation.

I said that to say this...while the BK2 is part of my preparedness gear, I don't just leave it in a bag waiting for the day when I'll need it to survive. I take that sucker out and play around with it! One day at the cabin between hunts, I sat next to the fire pit and carved out a hiking stick. I didn't need a hiking stick, but I enjoyed using the knife and working with my hands. My gear gets far more use just for fun than it will for real survival. The majority of people who buy "survival" gear will never need it for survival. That doesn't mean you can't use it, anyway. And the BK2 is not just a survival knife. It makes a great camp blade or work knife on the ranch or farm. As I've said, it's built for that stuff.

Is the knife perfect? No. If you're looking for the one knife that will do everything well, keep looking. You're not going to find it. Knives are built with specific tasks in mind (at least the good ones are) and there are too many variables for one knife to excel at everything.

The fit and finish on my BK2 is excellent. The only issue I've had is with the handle screws coming loose. When I first got the knife, I was able to tighten the screws and I hadn't even used it yet. After using the knife for a few months, I had to tighten the screws again. I'm not sure why they won't stay tight, but it's a fairly common issue with the Becker knives and many people use Loctite to solve the problem.

My only other issue, and it's a personal preference thing, is with the sheath. Actually, not the sheath itself, but the belt loop. The sheath is a hard plastic or Kydex type material, but the belt loop is made from webbing (see the top photo). The belt loop is secured to a flat plate which is secured to the sheath with four screws. The loop can be attached to either side of the sheath or removed completely. I don't like the webbing material because it allows the knife to flop around on my side. I prefer a hard loop made of the same material as the sheath which would keep the knife still. Again, it's personal preference thing and there are after market sheaths available. I'm looking at a Kydex sheath made for the BK2 with a hard loop and will likely replace the factory sheath.

The BK2 has been around for a long time and is well liked and respected in the knife community as is the designer, Ethan Becker. I did not perform torture tests or purposely abuse my knife for this review. I don't abuse my gear unless it's actually necessary. There are tons of reviews, both written and video, on the BK2. You can watch people doing all kinds of things from chopping to batoning and everything in between. The various knife forums and blogs are full of information. I chose the BK2 after doing a lot of research and coming to the conclusion that it was a good choice based on its track record.

Let me talk price here before I wrap this up. I've seen this knife go for over $100 on the Internet. If you pay anywhere near that much for a stock BK2, you've paid too much. Custom models are more expensive, but the standard knife goes for much less. I paid $58.99 for mine at Chestnut Ridge Knife Shop. You can get them on Amazon and other online knife retailers. Cabela's had them the last time I checked, but they were asking $90 for the knife. Shop around and check prices. I will say the BK2 is worth every penny I paid for it!

As I mentioned before, Ethan Becker has a line of knives all of which are very popular. One of those is the BK11 or "Becker Necker". It is the smallest knife in the Becker line. My good buddy, Dennis, over at Family Time, recently wrote a review on the BK11 which you can read here:

The Becker Necker

I understand that Dennis also owns a BK2 and I'm looking forward to his thoughts on the knife. Perhaps he will do his own review and offer a different perspective.

Well, that's it, my two cents worth on the Becker BK2. It really is a nice blade and I would not recommend it if I thought it wouldn't stand up to some heavy use. If this is the kind of knife you are in the market for, it is definitely worth being on your short list.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Redux Roundup

Before I get into brand new stuff this year, I just want to briefly follow up on a few things I've mentioned here previously. First and foremost, I want to draw your attention to some fine bloggers I've highlighted for blog of the week. Many of you already follow these folks, but in case one slipped by, here are the blogs up to this point. 

You'll find lots of great information, beautiful photos, and well written articles in these blogs. Check 'em out if you haven't already.

Have you ever read a gear or product review and later down the road wondered if the author still felt the same way about the item in question? I want to briefly follow up on a couple of things I reviewed. The first is my review of the Redfield Rebel 10x42 Binoculars from back in October. I used these all through hunting season in both rain and snow as well as just for general viewing. Several friends and family members also tried them out. My initial assessment stands. These are excellent, well built binoculars! I enjoy using them and foresee having them for many years. The price is very nice, too.

The other product I want to follow up on are the Work Horse 6.0 boots from Magnum Boots USA. I have worn these boots nearly every day and they are just as comfortable now as they were when I wrote the initial review. Lately, they've been exposed to sleet and snow, but my feet stay bone dry. I've experienced no fit or manufacturing issues at all. They still hold the top spot as my favorite pair of boots!

And, finally, this wasn't going to be part of my redux, but I guess it's fitting since it keeps coming back. Once again while trying to get caught up and comment on your fine blogs, I had time out error issues. After an hour and a half and only being able to successfully comment on a few blogs, I gave up in frustration. Blogger is the only site that gives me grief like this. The time out errors I get when trying to comment or just load a blog page are ridiculous. Half the time I can't load my own blog. Maybe they're trying to tell me I stink and should get off their system!

Well, I'm not caving to the establishment. They can kiss my gun-toting, hat wearing, deer hunting, truck driving, horse riding, Bluegrass arse!

Cool. I suddenly feel better.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wait, what? It's 2011?

Yeah, okay, so I'm finally off my lazy rear and making an appearance in the new year. I love holiday breaks and they always go by so stinkin' fast! Christmas was great and I got some very cool things thanks to my beautiful better half who always comes up with awesome gift ideas. It was a white Christmas to boot which doesn't always happen here in Kentucky. 

One thing I did NOT do was make New Year's resolutions. I'm just not a resolutions kinda guy. If I can't start, stop, or change something that needs to be started, stopped, or changed at the time, waiting for the new year to make a resolution won't work for me. I applaud those people who do make resolutions and follow through with them, but that's just not me. For that matter, I'm not a bucket list kinda guy, either. If I wrote down everything I truly wanted to do before leaving this earth, my list would be so long as to become unfulfillable and, therefore, disappointing. Plus, a bucket list would have me thinking too much about the future instead of living for today. Again, I admire those who create and fulfill a bucket list, but resolutions and bucket lists just don't fit with my philosophy. 

There are some things happening this year that I'm very excited about! The first is that my best friend and his family are moving to Kentucky. We've been best bud's since high school and college. We were able to get together for a visit during the holidays for the first time in four years. Rather than being ten hours apart like we have been the past few years, we'll be less than two hours apart once they get moved this summer. It'll be great to get out and do some hunting and fishing again! 

Another exciting development is that I've been asked to be a partner on a bass fishing tournament team. We'll be fishing five tournaments starting in April. If we accumulate enough points we can then go to the regional. Over the holidays I cleaned all of my rifles and shotguns and got them stored back in the safe. With all of the firearms hunting seasons now over, I've started getting into the fishing mindset, especially now that I'll be participating in these tournaments. A few days ago I brought all of my tackle and lures inside to sort through them. I have enough plastic baits to start a tackle shop. The living room floor was literally covered. I also stripped the line off all of my reels and will be cleaning them prior to putting on new line. I'm really looking forward to fishing with the element of competition added! Normally, I fish strictly for recreation so this will be something new. 

My daughter will be old enough this year that I can get her started shooting. I'm a firm believer in teaching kids strict firearms safety at a young age. She asked me all last fall when she was going to be able to go hunting with me. Before we step in the woods, I want her to have a solid foundation not only in safety, but also in shooting. I'm very excited about spending time with her on the range and in the woods! I've never tried to persuade her one way or the other regarding hunting or firearms, so for her to ask me to do this makes this father happy! 

I do appreciate all of you who follow my meager blog. I certainly didn't expect to have this many folks hanging around here in such a short time. I'm working on some new stuff, although I can't promise all of it will be of interest to some of you. I realize not all of my blog followers are hunters or anglers. Your comments are very much appreciated and I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to visit over the past five or six months! 

Here's to wishing you a wonderful 2011!