bookmark_borderTeach a Man to Fish

I fondly remember my Grandpa taking me fishing once in Florida long ago. I can’t remember what we caught or anything else besides a mental snapshot of him showing me how to cast. Other than that, I can’t remember ever fishing in my life prior to about a year ago. Kinda sad, but I was privileged to grow up being in the woods a lot.

My friend Jacob took me fishing a couple times last year, and gave me a ton of tackle/tools to get me started. I am just an amateur, but I now have my own $40 telescoping fishing pole, net, bucket, and some tackle of my own.

Fishing is such a fun hobby. It’s peaceful, prayerful, and exciting all at the same time. Jill has come with me on several occasions just to be with me and help net big, floppy fish that like to jump the hook.

Once you find a less frequented spot, and if you are not picky, you can eat pretty well. I’ve caught 36 edible fish in four trips in the past couple weeks! This is not including the many fish that were too small or got away.

Above we have a bunch of Bluegill, a Smallmouth Bass, and a Pickerel. Some guys would throw these back, but if you prepare them right (and Jill certainly does) they are delicious. Jill breads and fries them in coconut oil. For the Bluegill we found this video helpful and entertaining.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve provided food for my family. Not in the “work/acquire currency/buy food” sense, but in the “I just pulled this out of a lake” sense. It feels great. Every man should be taught this skill in boyhood. I was missing out all these years.

Jill and Alice have become really good at cleaning and preparing the fish too, and they enjoy that part of it. It’s great teamwork for the whole family. Sitting down to a “fish fry” at dinner is rewarding and very tasty!

bookmark_borderSpeed Nock Review

The nice fellows at Nomad Warriors sent me some various nocks to test out for speed shooting. Very helpful, because it’s hard to know what will work best for you! Thanks, guys. In return I’ll share the results of my testing, hopefully someone else can benefit!

My “style” is holding arrows with thumb and middle finger, using the index finger to hold the arrow against the right side of the bow. The index finger is straight and ends up between two feathers, so there are three random ways for the arrow to “load” but only two ways for the nock to be attached to the string. So it’s necessary to either:

  1. Twist slightly right
  2. Twist slightly left
  3. No twist at all (the best)

In order to go very fast, it’s vital to know which direction you have to turn the arrow the instant the nock touches the string. Better yet, before it touches the string, and preferably without ever looking at the fletching – it’s better to keep your eye on the target. I’ll hopefully do a whole video on this technique soon.

A speed nock is designed to make this process easier, so you don’t struggle to know which way to turn – either by:

  1. Letting you know by feel how the arrow is oriented the instant you grab it
  2. Making twisting onto the string easier or more natural

So here’s my review!

Koc Babur Nocks


  • “Helical” nocks which smoothly twist either left or right
  • Large and easy to “index” before the arrow ever touches the string


  • They simply don’t stay in the arrows and often stay behind on the string (or fly into the grass)
  • A tad bit too large sometimes, can get in the way of each other when holding 3+ arrows

Koc Standard

Same as above, but smaller. I have some of these from a previous order, and they also have trouble staying in arrows (lost a couple this way). Some people glue them in.

Not my favorite kind of nocks, but they are darn good, the big ones are probably #2 for me. Even these smaller ones are better than normal nocks.

Alibow Slim

Way too loose in my standard arrows, falls out instantly. Can’t even test. Might be a different size?

Alibow Aluminum

Good nock, very durable. It shoots a bit faster than normal nocks, but not as fast as other options.

Batur Castle

Very interesting concept, apparently a very old (1300s) design. Unfortunately it works very well in two nocking positions, but fails badly in the third. The string gets caught between three prongs, and the first one I tried broke instantly.

If one was using a four-feather fletching, these could be *very* good, but I don’t have any such arrows.

Vermil K

My favorite so far. I didn’t expect to like these because they look pretty much the same as other ones, but they are more predictive because of the curve/cutaway (you can see it best in the second one above). They just seem to fall on my string… to put it another way, my hand always seems to know which way it’s oriented.

I can shoot these very fast. Nomad Warriors generously sent me two of these, so I could test two at a time. Tonight I set up a metronome at 120 BPM and had little trouble firing the two arrows at that pace. I can’t wait to get my hands on three 🙂

Vermil U

Good idea, good execution. The big flare at the top allows you to easily index these fast. Unfortunately they easily get stuck at that annoying position where I’m not sure whether to twist right or left. For me, this makes them unpredictable.

Vermil X

These are perfect for the “Hungarian” or “Slavic” draws, or American Indian style “pinch” draw. Very comfortable for these styles. For my style they are 90 degrees the wrong way. Alice loves these as she uses the Slavic draw most of the time.

Vermil Y

About the same as the aluminum and “U” nocks. An improvement over normal nocks, but nothing particularly special (not helical like the Koc nocks, for instance), and for me tend to get stuck when nocking fast.

bookmark_borderOlive Oil Lamp

I love the idea of oil lamps because they run forever and don’t have to be replaced continually, like candles. In the past I’ve tried the paraffin lamps, but then you have to keep a supply of expensive/flammable/poisonous paraffin wax or kerosene around.

I learned that the Orthodox use these lamps a lot for shrine/votary/church type applications, and now I know why. Olive oil burns very clean and doesn’t leave stains on your ceiling, it’s safe and fairly cheap.

So lately I’ve been intrigued with burning olive oil and have made several different lamps of my own. Some were leaky or hard to fill without spilling (I hate drops of oil getting everywhere). Others don’t burn as long as I want.

You can’t just buy a normal oil lamp either. Olive oil is thick and will not wick very well. Because of this, you have to keep the oil very close (within an inch or so) to the burning wick. Fortunately this isn’t dangerous. Olive oil doesn’t easily catch on fire, in fact you can put out the lamp by dipping it in the remaining oil! One downside is that a soaked wick can take about 20 seconds (or a few matches) to light.

After a bunch of testing and fiddling I have made a lamp that I really like. It’s cheap, easy to make, and runs for 6-8 hours before I have to refill it, depending on the height of the flame. I can refill it while it’s burning, and it doesn’t spill! It’s open on top but less susceptible to getting knocked over than a tall candle. Adjusting the wick and lighting it is very easy.

All you need is a jar, some cotton wick about 1cm thick, a coat hanger, and some olive oil:

Brilliant, huh? Doesn’t get cheaper than that. I got a whole meter of wick for about $3 shipped. The jar is a plain old jam jar. The piece of coat hanger was bent into shape with some pliers. It hangs on the side of the jar and holds the wick.

The burny part sits off to the side of the jar, but that’s ok because it makes it easier to fill while it’s burning. This is the lamp equivalent of pumping gas with the engine running! Here’s a video of it burning. Goes all day like this. The water in the bottom lets me see when to refill it.

bookmark_borderThe Hobbit

One of our favorite family books. I read it to Jill on our honeymoon and multiple times to Alice (along with the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy). For years we would finish one book and move right on to the next, repeating those four books in series – and by Alice’s request!

Last year or so Jill requested that I do my own recorded version of the Hobbit. I finished it recently! You can listen here. It’s over nine hours of audio and took me a long time to finish, editing mistakes out as I went, and mastering the whole thing at the end (with a few fun effects).

If you get some use out of it, feel free to donate me some moneys. Since I don’t have any way to accept it electronically, it’ll have to be in person, or a mailed check or something. But no pressure, I am just glad this masterpiece of fiction lives on.

bookmark_borderFun with Cheap Vodka

I never realized what you could do with the stuff! Here is my latest projects with it:

Vanilla extract! You get the beans and use them for stuff like homemade ice cream. It makes those little tiny black specs and tastes really good – especially with my homemade butterscotch sauce. Then you put the used beans in vodka! After a couple weeks it’s vanilla extract – the expensive kind! A tiny bottle costs around $20, and the picture above is 10+ bottles. It tastes wonderful. The fudge Jill made with it had a delicious, distinct flavor. No, there isn’t anymore left.

Following on the heels of the extract theme, I decided to pick some mint leaves from our tiny garden and use them the same way. This makes a drink very similar to a mint julep – just add some sugar syrup and ice. Jill loves it, and it functions pretty much the same as it did in 1952.

On the left is my first attempt at limoncello. It’s the zest of two lemons. After this picture was taken, I then filtered out the zest and combined with sugar syrup to taste. It’s about the same process as the mint julep, and also tastes amazing. Very lemony.

All of these projects out of one $18 bottle of vodka!

bookmark_borderBottling Day

Jill and I finished a batch of blueberry wine today. Nothing but blueberries, sugar, water, and champagne wine yeast (Lalvin EC-118). My brewing is minimalist due to laziness and the desire to control variables.

Right out of the primary it tastes amazing. Fairly sweet, as all my blueberry wines have been, and a distinctive flavor and beautiful color (it dyes things a bluish purple):

I’ve also had problems in the past with blueberry wine being cloudy. I was very careful this time not to disturb the fermenter, and even gave it a few days in “racking” position to let it settle completely. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t even rack to a secondary. Yes, I’m that lazy, and don’t have a lot of room for another five-gallon container in our small place. I just filter and bottle right from the primary. It seems to work fine!


After years of trial and error, I’m getting pretty good at this. Not because I’m an expert (I know very little), but because I’ve learned what works for me. Like many hobbies, it starts by leaning on the foundation of other helpful experts, and then gradually branching out. Imitation -> Assimilation -> Innovation

My winemaking is simple, like my other crafting hobbies. Just champagne yeast, fruit, and sugar in the correct proportions. No additives, no preparation of fruit, no boiling anything, no backsweetening, no sulfites, no pectin. I don’t even rack into a secondary fermenter, I just filter and bottle right out of the primary.

Because my recipe is so darn simple, I can vary the kind of fruit I use. I can use grape juice right from the grocery store, as in this example, or frozen fruits like blueberries, strawberries, or peaches. As long as the amount of sugars remains the same, the resulting wine has the same amount of sweetness every time!

My latest completed batch came from a frozen fruit mixture of cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. It’s delicious! The sugar content of the fruit is right on the label, so I don’t have to guess when I calculate proportions.