Arrows and Minnows

Shooting the Henry Repeating Arms .30-30 Lever Action Wildlife Edition

Arrows and MinnowsBack in mid-September, I had the opportunity to put a few rounds through a brand-new Henry Repeating Arms .30-30 Brass Wildlife Edition rifle, with a colleague, friend, fellow hunter, and our sales director here at Ogden: Bob Legault. Right out of the box, without adjusting the open sights, we were hitting pie-plate-sized targets at 100 yards — and tighter groups yet at 60 yards. And, up until November 17, 2016, you have a chance to win your very own brand-new Henry Repeating Arms .30-30 Brass Wildlife Edition rifle; GRIT is teaming with Henry Repeating Arms to put one .30-30 (MSRP $1,250) into the hands of one of our lucky readers.


A few different characteristics really stand out on this firearm. First, the thing is beautiful. Henry’s made-in-America craftsmanship really catches the eye, and the rifle would be a definite point of conversation and pride around the campfire in deer camp. I’m a huge fan of wooden stocks, and the American Walnut on this gun looks beautiful. Then you have the brass plate that is special for the Wildlife Edition, featuring the head of a whitetail buck on one side and a leaping buck on the other. When I first brought this gun home, I spent at least 10 minutes just looking at the different features and admiring the beauty before I messed around with the lever action and then put it into the safe.


Rifle closeup

Next up, you notice when you look down the barrel, the rear semi-buckhorn sight features a nifty little white diamond, which I liked for trying to seat the brass-bead front sight into the rear sight consistently, and I can also imagine that white diamond on the rear sight might come in handy at first light and twilight — I’ll let you know for sure when rifle season arrives in my part of Kansas. But we did like that it was an open-sights tool that seems to help you place the brass-bead front sight into the notch of the rear sight more or less the same every time. From there, it’s up to the marksman to not flinch and push or pull the shot.

The gun feels good when shouldering, and I liked the sensitivity of the trigger; you can see in the video my own shooting got better when I got used to the trigger and let the mechanism really surprise me. And the lever action is extremely smooth and fun to operate. As time goes on and I shoot the gun more, I get used to the lever action of the gun. Regardless of how accustomed to it I become, I love how it takes me back to our frontiersman ancestors and westward expansion.

The .30-30 Henry is a classic American brush gun in my mind, and I’m pumped to continue to practice with it this fall in hopes of “tipping over” (Bob’s words) a whitetail at close range come rifle season — I just hope to have a couple archery tags filled before then.

The Henry was the first practical lever-action repeater — it first appeared during the Civil War — and to this day the company takes great pride in its made-in-America reputation. In that way, the strong legacy of Henry Repeating Arms in early America is a natural fit with our own brand, GRIT, which has been “Celebrating Rural America Since 1882.”

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2017 Weather Predictions

Caleb Regan loves the process of heating with wood.The official first day of fall was yesterday, and here in Kansas, it was 90 degrees when I walked out of the office at 5 p.m. I was dripping sweat as my wife and I stacked a load of firewood that I’d cut Sunday and split yesterday evening, then I hopped on the mower to cut some of the still growing, very green grass. I might have even picked up a slight poison ivy rash while stacking wood. Things are still green here, and it’s unseasonably warm it seems, but it’s that time to look ahead to the winter weather forecasts and the 2017 weather outlook. A week or so back, the first copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2017 came across my desk, and it’s always fun to check out their 2017 weather predictions and look ahead.

But first, it’s always fun to look back at the year in review, to the 2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac weather predictions, and see how they did. In my part of the country, they predicted a dry winter with normal temperatures, and the 2016 summer was to be hot and dry. I’d say for winter, they nailed it — we didn’t get much snow last winter and it was very mild. As far as summer goes, I think we were actually mild in terms of the heat, and it definitely wasn’t dry, especially in later summer when it typically can be very dry.

Anyways, on to the 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac winter and summer weather predictions.

For the 2016-2017 winter, mild and dry is the weather prediction for most of the country; colder than last winter, but still above average. Much of the very most northern parts of the country could get more precipitation than normal, and it’s going to be a cold one for those folks located from North Dakota sweeping over to Maine. The majority of the west coast will see below average temperatures, with the northern half of the west coast having a wet winter, and the southern half a dry one. They predict a snowy one too, for the area from southern New England down into the Appalachian states. Florida can also expect a wet winter.

2016-2017 Winter Weather Forecast 

For summer 2017, The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cool summer for the entire country, with the exception of from the Rocky Mountains west. The entire west coast is predicted to experience a hot, wet summer, while most of the middle of the country will be cool and dry, except for down south. The entire east coast is predicted to be cool and wet, while the Ohio Valley and Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi will be cool and dry.

2017 Summer Weather Forecast 

Other useful articles I found within the pages of The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2017 are articles titled “Dry-Farm for Tasty Tomatoes,” “A Chronological Compendium of Weather Facts, Phenomena and Forecasts with occasional bursts of mirth and mayhem” (“1938: January in Saskatchewan is so cold that cattle reportedly walk while they pee, lest icicles freeze them in place.”), and “Home Waters: Rivers That Run in the Mind.”

To check out more from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, or to get a copy, visit

American LandMaster UTVs

Caleb Regan loves the process of heating with wood.Several years back, 2012 to be exact, we filmed a television show, “Tough Grit,” in partnership with Tractor Supply Co. that aired on RFD-TV. In a few of the episodes — one episode dealing with using a water pump to deliver water to your garden, another about planting trees and moving mulch — contestants used Tractor Supply’s UTVs to perform various farm tasks. At the time, our filming crew was impressed with the units. They were fairly bare-bones, not a lot of the bells and whistles like you see on some other UTV brands, but they were capable and never gave us problems. That wasn’t always the case with machines while we were filming.

Those UTVs were manufactured by American SportWorks. Today, American SportWorks, now American LandMaster, is still manufacturing UTVs, and has just introduced the 2017 model line, called the LandStar models.

American Landmaster UTVs are made and assembled in the USA, with American and imported parts. 

American LandMaster UTVs are made and assembled in the USA, with American and imported parts. Photo courtesy American LandMaster

For the acreage owner who wants a work machine at a substantially less price than what you typically find on the market, these workhorses are worth consideration. No, you won’t be able to fly 55 mph down a gravel road or across a pasture, but if you’ve ever traveled that speed in a UTV, you might realize you don’t want to go that fast. I’ve ridden trails on a UTV in Montana, switchbacks and gravel straightaways both, and I love the thrill of fishtailing at high speed on gravel and flying down trails while trail riding. But I don’t need a work UTV to go super fast on the farm, especially if I’m on pavement or a solid surface. And I definitely wouldn’t want one that was capable of high speeds if we had youngsters on it routinely.

The new LandMaster UTVs top out at just under 25 mph, and their handling, maneuverability, and capability is exceptional for the price. I felt compelled to write something up about them because I think the utilitarian nature of the machine suits our reader to a T. They are solid — at an affordable price.

A couple of insights I can give — after driving the LS48V, LS350, LS450, LS550, and LS670 at a media event up near Fort Wayne, Indiana — are that when you make the jump to the 4-wheel hydraulic brakes (starting in the LS550), you definitely notice a difference. When driving the LS350 model, it felt a little bit as though I had to really stand on the brakes to slow down rapidly. A second thing is that switch-button locking rear differential starts in the LS450, and it makes a heck of a difference, especially if you’re going with a 2-wheel-drive model. Four-wheel drive starts in the LS550. Lastly, if you go with a rear flip seat, it'll rattle around a little bit, especially if no one's in the seat (in which case it's extremely easy to flip down).

The LS350 (2WD, 277cc engine) starts at $4,699. For the money, in my opinion, the LS550 (4WD, 479cc Briggs Vanguard engine, towing capacity of 1,200 pounds, 500 pounds bed capacity) for $6,699 is a tough one to beat. One step up is the LS670 (4WD, 674cc Kohler engine, towing capacity of 1,200 pounds, 500 pounds bed capacity) at $7,099. For $500 more, add independent rear suspension in the LS750.

For basic farm needs, at the price, the new American LandMaster 2017 LandStar models are worth considering. I know several of the models would make a great fence-building partner.

Q&A With the Expert: Camping Gear Review, and Camping and Backpacking Advice

Rainbow trout in south-central Missouri.What better way to get insight on camping equipment than from a gear editor of a premier outdoor magazine? Managing Editor Caleb Regan recently spoke with Backpacker Magazine Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter. Their conversation covered a variety of topics, including general camping gear and advice, tents, sleeping bags, lanterns and locations.

CR: What is the typical top priority when people are considering tent choice?

KH: We typically focus on real technical backpacking and base camping tents. You mentioned canvas before, canvas, really doesn’t exist in our world anymore at all. It’s just really heavy, hard to work with and almost nobody makes canvas tents anymore unless you’re talking about huge tepees or Quonset or yurts or something like that.

I think when you’re shopping for a tent, from our perspective the two things to really think about are the weight and the space. If you’re buying a high-quality tent they are all going to be waterproof, they’re all going to be fairly weather-worthy, and so all those things being equal, you’re trying to figure out what your weight capacity is, and how much space you want.

Do you ever encounter canvas tents in a basecamp with a woodstove or anything like that?

It’s very, very niche. If you’re looking for a tent to go out camping with your family for the weekend, you’re going to be concerned with how much space it has, things like how easy it is to set up, how much weight it’s going to be in your pack or how much space it’s going to take up in your car, that sort of thing.

Camping and fishing on the lake makes for a reflective, fulfilling couple of days.

(Photo by Fotolia/Galyna Andrushko)

Within the polyester and nylon category, can you talk about where the dome shape excels and where the square, cabin-shaped tents excel?

It’s all about weather. The square-shaped tents, we don’t do much with those at all because we focus more on tents that can really handle backcountry weather and backcountry conditions, and a simple rule to follow is the taller the tent and the bigger the surface area of unsupported nylon you have, the less weather-worthy it’s going to be. So if you have a cabin tent with a huge 10-foot-long wall that’s unsupported by a pole, it’s going to be like a sail in the wind, and it’s going to flutter, and it’s going to collapse. Dome tents – and there’s many more configurations than dome tents, these days too – they are really well-supported with the pole structure, they are aerodynamic so the wind just kind of blows right over them, and they’re generally lower in terms of height, so again, just more aerodynamic.

But there are lots of other shapes of tents that we talk about besides dome tents, and there are all kinds of different versions of dome tents too, there are really strict domes, but there are also types of modified, elongated domes, asymmetrical domes, things like that. There’s also something called a “tunnel tent,” that is a super lightweight tent that is not free standing, in other words it does not stand up by itself without stakes, so you have two poles that are hoops, and they create this tunnel-like structure that you stake out on each end, and that’s actually a very weather-worthy construction as well and super lightweight because it doesn’t rely on so many poles and stakes. There are tepee tents out there that have a long center pole and then you stake out the fabric around it. Those can be very weather-worthy if you set them up right and stake them out right; a little less common than a tunnel tent or a dome tent or a modified dome tent.

But I guess the general rule of thumb is the more aerodynamic a shape is, the better it’s going to hold up in wind and weather.

Polyester or Nylon?

Most tents are one or the other or sometimes a blend of two. I think the important thing to think about with material is, well two things for the canopy: You want to figure out what sort of conditions you’re going to be in, and you want to figure out how much mesh you want, because a mesh canopy is going to be way cooler in the summer heat. All good tents are going to have a full-coverage rain fly that goes over the mesh canopy to protect from rain or water, but that mesh underneath still allows a lot of airflow to come up under the fly and through the tent making it more comfortable. If you’re looking for more of a cool-weather tent, then you don’t want as much mesh and you want solid nylon or polyester panels in there and fewer windows to trap the heat. So that’s the main thing with the canopy of the tent.

The other thing about materials that is important, maybe even more so, are the poles. Basically you’re going to find two types of tent poles out there on any tent you’re looking at: You’re going to find fiberglass poles or aluminum poles. Fiberglass poles are always cheaper, much cheaper. So anytime you see a 2-man tent for 40 bucks, 50 bucks, 60 bucks, it’s going to have fiberglass poles. Higher end tents – I mean you can look at the price tag and pretty much know whether it has fiberglass or aluminum poles – higher end tents always have aluminum poles. Aluminum poles are stronger and lighter and more expensive, of course. I never recommend anybody buy a tent with fiberglass poles. They just don’t hold up. It’s very easy to nick the ends, and then they start to splinter, they break really easily, they’re very heavy compared to aluminum, and it’s much less of an investment, for sure for people on a budget, but it’s just one of those things that it’s one of the first things to go wrong in a tent is fiberglass poles.

Are there some aluminum poles that are better or worse than others?

The thing with aluminum poles is they bend but don’t break. If they bend, they are still totally serviceable. I’ve got tent poles down in my basement where you are inside a tent and there’s huge windstorms, and it’s blowing and bending and bucking all night, and even starts to flatten on you but bounces right back, it’s very rare that the wind, unless it’s a catastrophic wind event, that the wind is going to break your aluminum tent pole – IF it’s set up properly.

One of the huge parts about surviving a big storm in a tent is that you have to have it set up and staked out really properly and really well. Because if you don’t, you’re not giving the tent that proper rigid structure that it was designed for, that will rib off the weather. If you have a dome tent that you stake out on one side but not the other, and wind gets in and lifts up underneath that tent, that’s when you start to get breaks and snap and things like that when it’s not set up straight. But yes there are all kinds of different aluminum poles and all kinds of companies and different thicknesses – thinner poles are obviously not going to be as strong as thicker poles but they are going to be much lighter and less expensive. So there’s definitely all kinds of variations of that, but generally the tent is going to have the poles that it needs to do what it was designed for. So if you’re buying a $600 winter mountaineering tent, it’s going to have beefier, fatter, thicker, larger diameter poles that are meant to handle snow loads and really high winds. If you’re buying an ultra-light summer camping tent, it’s going to have much thinner poles because generally that’s all you need in that kind of weather.

What are people’s top considerations with sleeping bags?

The main thing with sleeping bags is whether you’re going to want down or synthetic. And it’s pretty simple: Synthetic bags are generally cheaper than down bags, but they are also more resistant to water. I think that if you’re going to invest in a sleeping bag, these days, you’re crazy not to go with a down bag. It’s very rare that I find a synthetic bag that performs as well as a down bag does, even in wet conditions. For the most part when you’re camping in the rain, you’re in a tent anyways, so water is not a huge consideration for sleeping bags unless you’re doing something really gnarly like going to Alaska for a month, river camping or paddling where there’s the possibility that your bag might fall in or something like that. Down bags are super-packable, super lightweight, really warm for their weight, and they also tend to last longer because down is very resilient and springs back to life after it’s packed up, whereas a synthetic bag tends to lose loft over time.

Are down bags too hot in the summertime?

You have to buy the bag that, again, is suitable for your type of trip. If you’re a summer camper, you’re going to want a bag that’s rated to 35, 40 degrees which is a really thin bag. If you take a bag rated to zero degrees out in the summer you’re going to be super hot. You have to have the right bag for your type of trip. Down, I also feel , and this is just an experience and perception that I have and I think a lot of people share, but down bags tend to breathe a little bit better than synthetics. Synthetic bags can get a little clammier just because your body vapor and your body heat doesn’t escape as well as through down and the shell material. And down typically has a lightweight shell material and the bags just tend to breathe a little bit better.

What are people going for in terms of shape, mummy vs. rectangle?

We typically only review mummy bags or what we call semi rectangular bags that are slightly tapered bags, but even among mummy bags the shape can vary a huge amount. So if you ever read Backpacker we always talk about the cut and shape of the bag, some mummies are very tight, very thermally efficient. The snugger the bag is, to a degree, the more thermally efficient it is because it’s your body that heats up that interior space, the bag doesn’t heat anything up, you heat the bag, and so if you have a lot of excess space in your bag, it’s going to take a lot of work for your body to heat up that space. So the snugger a bag is, the more thermally efficient a bag is, but there’s always a happy medium there because most people don’t like to sleep in a totally tight, confined environment. So you want to have a little bit of wiggle room, you want to be able to move your knees and roll around, things like that. So the best thing you can do if you are looking at a bag is to crawl in it, see how you feel, roll over onto your side if you’re a side sleeper, because there’s a lot of variation. If you’re just going summer car camping with your kids, then a cheap rectangular bag from LL Bean, or WalMart even, is going to do the trick just fine, as long as you don’t have to pack it because the more material a bag has the heavier and bulkier it’s going to be when packed as well.

What are common light sources for camping excursions?

Karosene lanterns are really fussy and hard to operate, and you have to worry about having fuel and flair ups. Nobody really uses those camping anymore. We typically use battery-powered or rechargeable headlamps or lanterns that you plop right on a table and fire it up.

What about the Termacell mosquito repellant lanterns, have you guys used them?

I have – it didn’t work for me. It’s very hard to feel any difference in terms of bugs flying around you. I don’t buy into those things at all. I’ve tried it and didn’t find that it worked. It might do something to alleviate some really light bug conditions, I don’t know, I could not perceive any difference in where the bugs fly when I was using it, but it’s a nice lantern.

What do you find are the major ways that the weekend warrior’s supply pack differs from the backpacker’s?

It’s really all about weight. If you’re backpacking, you have to carry it. And if you’re just piling everything into your car and going to a campsite, you don’t, so you can bring anything: You can bring big chairs and you can bring tables and two-burner stoves, and all kinds of gourmet cookware and coolers and things like that. But if you’re backpacking, you’re looking at what every single item in your pack weighs, and you’re counting ounces, and you’re trying to get away with as little as possible.

What are the most common errors people make when camping?

With gear, it’s easy, it’s over-packing. Most people pack way more clothes than they actually need. When you’re backpacking you tend to wear the same T-shirt for four days. People tend to pack way more clothes than they need. And food too, often.

Other common mistakes are maybe they didn’t check the batteries in their headlamp, or they packed the wrong kind of fuel for their stove. It’s really just constant and it’s practice too. Nobody goes out on their first backpacking trip and comes back and says, “Oh my God, I packed just right. I had everything I needed, and nothing I didn’t.” That takes years of practice. I’m still working on that. Backpacking, there’s this line that you want to straddle because you want to have everything that you need to be safe, if the shit hits the fan, but you really don’t want to be carrying everything for every single circumstance that might pop up. It takes experience over the years and really good planning – you should know exactly where you’re going, what kind of conditions you’re likely to encounter, what kind of problems you’re likely to encounter, and pack around that. Not some crazy hypotheticals that aren’t going to happen where you’re going.

One thing with gear, and I still do this to this day when I get a new tent to test, the first thing that I do is I take it out into my backyard and I set it up, and I make sure I know how to set it up, and sometimes it’s really easy and sometimes it takes a few tries before you understand where everything goes. But you gotta set your tent up, you gotta stake it out, you gotta know you have the right amount of stakes and the right amount of guylines to secure it. You’re crazy if you try to do that for the first time on an overnight trip in middle of the backcountry in the dark. And I think a lot of people actually do do that, is get a brand-new tent, they throw it in their pack and off they go, and they’re out in backcountry and they’re taking the plastic bags off tent poles and little elastic bands are flying everywhere that hold the poles together. Those things should be unpackaged at home and you’ve got to learn how to set up your tent before you get out there.

What are your favorite pursuits? Where do you like to go?

I’m pretty lucky. I get to travel for work and go to some pretty exotic places. I just got back from Nepal actually, five days before the earthquake I was hiking into Everest base camp. I was there 16 days, which was an incredible trip. I get to travel quite a bit for work, so I’m very lucky in that sense: I get to plan a dream trip and then make it happen. And not pay for it, which puts me in a very small percentage of people. But I love backpacking, backpacking is something a lot of people who haven’t done it, they hear that word and they think, Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to carry a big pack when you can just drive up to a lake and throw out your tent and sit there and roast marshmallows? I love doing that too, by the way, but backpacking is one of my favorite things to do because you get to explore these really remote places where there aren’t a lot of other people, and you get out of it what you get into it – So if you’re willing to hike 10 miles into the Sierra Nevada, you’re going to find some pretty amazing scenery that is just not available if you’re not willing to put in that effort. The other thing that I’ve really come to love about backpacking is yes, you have to carry all your stuff, but there is something really gratifying about going exploring with everything you need in your pack, on your back. And knowing that at the end of the day, you can unload your pack and set up your camp and have a great meal in this completely remote place where there are no other people and be comfortable and be safe and have a great time. And there’s something that is really cool about that. And I think until you get that, you might not understand the real draw of backpacking.

That’s actually one of the other things, a common mistake, when people first start backpacking, is not thinking it through. If you’re trying to introduce someone to backpacking, like the first thing I do is think about where am I going to go where the payoff is going to be huge? In other words I don’t want to just walk a dreary section of the Appalachian Trail in the woods, Big Tree Tunnel and there’s nothing to see and no big views. That might be totally fun, but it’s not going to have the big payoff.

I took my mother backpacking years ago, for a story actually, and I did all this research and found this place is Desolation Wilderness in California, where I knew we had a 6 mile hike in and up, it was a hard hike, straight up hill into the mountains, but once you get up there, into this lake basin, it was just spectacular: big peaks all around you, gorgeous lakes, huge trees, lots of wildlife. It was a huge payoff for fairly little effort. I was able to get her in there, without taking much suffering, and then I was able to show her this beautiful payoff and she got a real true sense of “this is why my daughter loves this, I can see this.” You want to plan your trips really well so you can get as much benefit as you can without much suffering. If the suffering doesn’t match the benefit, you’re not going to really tap into why backpacking is so great.

And a lot of people, and I’m one of them too, I like to suffer a little bit. I love a big bad hike up 10-miles of trail straight up hill where I’m sweating, because then you get there, and you’ve accomplished something. There’s that sense of accomplishment. But backpackers tend to have a little bit of that sense of masochism.

There’s a great gratification in it and self reliance and confidence, for sure. In our everyday lives it’s so easy to not have that, we go out to restaurants and we have people pumping gas into our cars, people do everything for us, but when you go backpacking, you’re really doing everything for yourself, and it feels good.

GRIT Blogger Contest Update

Arrows and MinnowsFor about eight years now, we have been building our blogging community here at – an engaged community that reflects our mission of celebrating the rural life while at the same time demonstrating stewardship of the land and goodwill towards our neighbors. That goodwill can be seen on a daily basis as bloggers routinely comment and share ideas on each others’ posts.

In the month of July, GRIT teamed with power equipment manufacturer ECHO to make something new, interesting and cool happen, the very first of what could be many, a sponsored GRIT Blogger Contest. Here’s how it works and where it stands:

Echo CS-590 TimberWolf Chainsaw

There will be two separate winners, and each winner will receive $100 plus an ECHO CS-590 TimberWolf chainsaw (MSRP $399.99) – right up our folks’ alley.

One winner will be the GRIT blogger with the most blog posts in the month of July 2016. The second winner will be the author of the blog post with the most unique pageviews in the month of July 2016. In the event that those two contests result in the same winner, a second winner will be determined by the person who authored the post with the second most unique pageviews in the month.

All qualifying posts must be authored in the month of July 2016. And contest was only open to folks signed up to blog for before July 1. There is still time, so close out the month strong, and get your friends to share your blog posts on social media in July!

Here are the top 3 currently in both categories, as of July 20.

Most Unique Pageviews:

Four Reasons Not to Homestead” by Alethea Wilcox – 2,657 Unique Pageviews

Blackberry Pruning Demystified” by Rachel – 2,622 Unique Pageviews

Mean Ole Rooster” by Erin C. – 1,517 Unique Pageviews

Most Posts in July 2016:

April Freeman – 14 Posts

Marilyn Jones – 6 Posts

Connie Moore – 5 Posts

Rachel – 5 Posts

Not a blogger, but interested in becoming one and taking part in future blogger contests? Send an email to Haley Fisher at

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2016 Weather Predictions

Arrows and MinnowsIt’s firewood cutting and deer processing time in my neck of the woods, and so winter weather forecasts and the 2016 weather outlook are on my mind. So far this winter it’s been unusually mild – we’ve only had 10 or so fires in the woodstove. I’m not complaining, though, as that has saved my wife and I some firewood, and I know it’s saved others in my part of Kansas on November heating bills. I love this time of the year, and recently when a copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac of 2016 came across my desk, I had to look ahead at next year’s weather predictions, and also reflect on the accuracy of last year’s predictions.

First of all, with regard to last year’s predictions, it was supposed to be cold and dry in our part of the country last winter, and that’s pretty much just what we got – we didn’t get hardly any snow at all last year. Summer’s prediction wasn’t quite as accurate: Instead of hot and dry, we had a pretty mild, very wet summer. How did they do in your part of the country?

Anyways, on to the 2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac winter and summer weather predictions.

For winter 2015-16, the publication calls for cold temperatures in most parts of the nation, with the northeast coast and Pacific Northwest getting more snow than usual. They predict colder temperatures than usual for most of the Atlantic coastal seaboard and extending west through the Corn Belt, Great Lakes region, and further west to the eastern part of Montana. The wet places on the map you notice are throughout the Rocky Mountains down into northwest Texas and northeast New Mexico, on the east coast from southern New Jersey down into Georgia, and Maine. Expect more snowfall than usual in the Pacific Northwest, from the Dakotas east to Michigan, in the Ohio Valley and all states surrounding Kentucky, and in the northeast. Normal temps and dry is the prediction here in Kansas. The Old Farmer's Almanac 2016 Winter Weather Prediction 

For summer, when I look at the map I notice two things: (1) For most of the nation, The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts hotter than normal temperatures, nearly all of the northern half of the U.S., and (2) there’s a pretty sizable red area indicating hot and dry conditions. Hot and dry is the prediction for most of California too, down into Arizona – here’s hoping that’s wrong. The southeast U.S. and on up to the northeast, as well as the northwestern states, might get a little wetter than usual. The Old Farmer's Almanac 2016 Summer Weather Prediction  2016 The Old Farmer's Almanac

Aside from the weather predictions, this little book is chock-full of the usual when-to-plant, when-to-fish, best days for doing all sorts of activities, as well as feature articles on growing a home-brew garden, fruit-tree grafting, how seeds travel, all about legumes (with recipes), how jet streams work, and more. “Angling Advice for Anyone Anywhere” was just one headline that caught my eye.

Time will of course tell if the 2016 weather predictions offered by The Old Farmer’s Almanac are indeed accurate, but here’s to a safe, fruitful season no matter where you are. After last winter, my wife is hoping to get snowed in this year. If it happens, hopefully we’ll be ready for it – I know we’ll have venison in the freezer and enough wood to get us through. As always, drop me a line at to compare hunting notes, woodcutting experiences, gardening tips, or whatever else might be on your mind.

To check out more from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, or to get a copy, visit

Powerhorse 22-Ton Hydraulic Log Splitter

Arrows and MinnowsThis past winter, we embarked on the challenge of cutting enough firewood to heat our home completely with wood. We are renters, and two cords of firewood was generously provided for in our lease. That being provided, as a guy with more chainsaws than I’ve ever been able to use, and a will to spend more time in the woodlot running machines I love and exercising muscles I don’t use while sitting in the office, I was excited to see the sawdust fly and spend some time in solitude laboring for our winter heat.

To some, genuine excitement for such a labor-intensive chore might seem exaggerated. However, it’s important to note that in recent years we were in a situation where we heated with an electric furnace, likely undersized, which when coupled with poor construction and/or poor insulation, brought winter-month electric bills in excess of $700 – at that price achieving no greater temps than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Secondly, I grew up cutting and hauling firewood with my dad and brothers, so it’s an endeavor and even a pastime fully ingrained into my notion of fall and winter chores – plus it hearkens me back to a time spent with my heroes.

After getting permission to saw up some down timbers on an adjacent property, I set in on a big aged white oak tree that came down a couple years before in a microburst. A dull chain or two later – I’ve fallen in love with Carlton chains and their ability to maintain an edge – it was cut into 18-inch billets, and I went to work with my 8-pound maul and wedge.

As I got better at hitting the existing cracks in the wood, the work went quicker and easier, but to really build up an excess – and even, perhaps, make a little money if a guy or gal wanted to go down that path – I thought of how a wood splitter might impact my time investment.

At around $1,000, the fully towable 22-ton log splitter from Powerhorse, made by Northern Tool, seemed to be in the right price range for a person looking to build up a steady supply of firewood – that is, if it were adequate for east-central Kansas’ hardwoods: hedge (Osage Orange), locust, oak, hickory, and then easier splitting walnut, hackberry, elm and others.

Roughly two cords of wood later, the Powerhorse log splitter hasn’t hit a piece of wood that has stalled it. It’s just getting broken-in, but I’ve had some pretty gnarly pieces with crotches, knots and so forth, and once it hits that second stage of hydraulics, it manages to push through.

Aside from its proven power, I’ve been especially impressed with ease of starting, log cradle, and vertical splitting position as features on this bad-to-the-bone little splitter. So far, so good. What about you? Are there any splitters, chainsaws, chains, mauls or other wood cutting and splitting equipment that you find well worth the price? We’d love to hear about it (