Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Cold Steel Voyager XL Vaquero

I wanted a good self-defense folder for every-day carry. After watching Fernando Aguirre's review on his You Tube channel, I decided to go with the Cold Steel Voyager XL Vaquero (plain edge) folder. The list price for this knife is $94.99, but I found through Amazon for $41.75. It arrived at the end of June. I've been carrying it for about a month now, and absolutely love it.

 Before I get into the meat of the review, here are the specifications for this knife: Overall length (open) is 12.25 inches, closed  length is 6.75 inches, blade length is 5.5 inches, blade thickness is 4 mm, and the weight is approximately 7.4 ounces on my digital kitchen scale. The steel is Japanese AUS 8A stainless (it has a stone wash finish). The Grivory handles are deeply textured and the overall design allows for several grip options. The folder features Cold Steel's patented Tri-Ad lock mechanism which is very strong. It comes with an attached belt/pocket clip which can be swapped around for right-hand or left-hand carry.

Cold Steel Voyager XL Vaquero with SAK Hiker for size comparison.
Upon opening the box, the first thought that hit me was "Wow. This is HUGE for a folder." I was worried that the size would make it uncomfortable for every-day carry. Fortunately, I was wrong. After a month of carrying, it has worked very well with the cargo pants like I typically wear, and I am not bothered by its size. I will note that I haven't carried it with dress slacks and don't know how well it would work in that situation.

The recurve blade is very, very sharp straight from the box, and needed no sharpening. The S-shape of a recurve blade makes it especially useful for self-defense, allowing the blade to cut extra-deep with a slashing motion. (Luckily, I haven't had to actually use it for self-defense yet.) I purchased the plain-edge, but it also is available with a serrated edge, if you prefer.

Click the pictures to see a larger image.

The deep-texturing of the handle, along with the excellent over-all design of the handle, allows for a very firm, no-slip grip. There is little chance of you slicing your own fingers by losing your grip and your hand then sliding along the handle.

After a month of carrying the Cold Steel Voyager XL Vaquero everyday, I give it five out of five stars. I am extremely impressed with this knife, and plan to continue to carry it as my everyday self-defense folder. It could also serve well as a good general-use hunting, fishing, and survival knife.

Click this link to find the Cold Steel Voyager XL Vaquero on Amazon.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: Cold Steel Bushman Survival Knife

This review was originally published on an old blog of mine in June 2011. Today, three years later, I still agree with everything I wrote in the review.

I purchased the Cold Steel Bushman from (regular price $35, but I got it on sale for less) for a survival knife based on several reviews & demonstrations of it on You Tube. However, actually holding the knife in hand leaves me even more impressed than watching the videos. As a rural/backwoods fixed blade survival knife, I give the Bushman five out of five stars.

This is a knife that is big enough, sharp enough, rugged enough and versatile enough to tackle any outdoor survival use. If Tom Hanks' character had this knife on that deserted island, his life would have been so much easier.

The hallow-handled knife is actually forged from a single sheet of 2.5mm thick high carbon steel and is virtually indestructible. There are no seems or joints to wear out or break.

The overall length of the Bushman is just over 12 inches and the blade is seven inches long and quite sharp straight out of the box. It is a well balanced knife that can be used as a throwing knife (look up some of the You Tube videos for a demonstration).

The hollow handle is designed to allow you to be able to either carry some survival items in the handle or to quickly convert the Bushman into a spear by inserting a limb or yard tool handle into it. You can "lock" the spear shaft in place by inserting a screw at the groove in the base of the handle. There is also a small hole near the top of the handle where a second screw can be inserted (or it can be used to affix a lanyard). Some of the You Tube videos demonstrate the conversion into and use of the Bushman as a spear.

The Cordura sheath is well-designed for this knife and has a fairly large external pocket that can be used to store a sharpener, fire starter and other small survival items. It has a simple loop to carry it on your belt.

I consider the Cold Steel Bushman to be an excellent survival knife, especially for the price (you can pay a lot more for survival knives of lesser quality). It is my main rural/backwoods survival knife.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get your church involved in prepping

Let me start by quickly addressing the question of should churches be involved in prepping, or anything other than worship for that matter. The biblical answer is yes, in my opinion. After all, church isn't something that was intended to be confined only to the four walls of a building on Sunday mornings. Church, as it is shown in the New Testament, is a community of believers that transcends buildings and time slots. The New Testament churches didn't just worship together, they loved one another and helped each other.

Christians are a family. We often call each other "brothers and sisters" even when we are not related by blood or marriage. Jesus has taught us to love one another, to help one another. This is what I mean when I suggest churches get involved in prepping - that we help each other as we struggle to survive tough times that may lie ahead. It is the Christian thing to do.

The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
    but fools gulp theirs down. -- Proverbs 21:20

Much more can be said about this, but it is not my intention to "preach" a sermon at this time. Instead, I will jump straight to my suggestions on how churches can be centers of prepping:

1) Start Talking About the Need for Prepping - You don't even have to call it "prepping." Emergency or disaster preparedness are legitimate names for what we do, and may be more acceptable to your fellow church members. Still, the important thing is to get people thinking and talking about preparedness.

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. 
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. -- Proverbs 22:3

2) Community Gardening - If your church has, or can get access to, some land, then start a community gardening program. There are many ways this can be done, from one massive garden that everyone works and shares its harvest, to individuals & families being provided smaller plots to garden as they see fit. The garden could be limited to church members only, or it could be opened up a larger community. The community gardening program would also provide encouragement and education to folks wanting to garden in their own yards.

3) Classes and Sessions in Food Storage and Canning - Churches could encourage and educate their members to store food. Chances are your church has a number of older members who would love to pass on their knowledge of canning and other food preservation techniques. If not, check your your local agricultural extension office.

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household,
has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. -- 1 Timothy 5:8

4) First Aid and CPR Courses - Your church could offer its members courses in first aid and CPR. You many have members already qualified to teach those courses. If not, contact your local fire department or EMS. Many will be happy to work with your church to provide first aid training.

5) Financial Courses - Encourage and educate church members on personal finances, budgeting, and becoming debt-free. There are a number of ministries which educate and encourage folks in their personal finances, and a lot of free and low-cost programs and bible studies available. Check out Dave Ramsey's website, books, and radio program. Also, Money Matters with Ken Moraif. And Crown Financial. There may be others.

6) Scout-like Youth Groups - You church could host various types of scouting and scouting-like groups, including Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA. Some denominations even have their own groups similar to these. Scouting programs, of whatever type, are a great way to young people the values and skills that will help them no matter what life throws their way.

7) Store Food and Other Supplies - A church I attended many years ago had a small room where they stored old coats & jackets, blankets, canned and dried food, baby supplies, and other similar things. These were then given to the homeless or other people in need that would show up at the church from time-to-time asking for help. Your church could do something similar - buying and storing supplies that could be distributed to either church members and/or needy folks in an emergency.

8) Preparedness Classes and Seminars - Churches could provide occasional seminars or on-going classes in preparedness. How to do this and what subjects to cover are limited only by your imagination. Your church members could also work together to buy supplies in bulk, combining your individual purchases to get the best prices possible.

9) Communications - Your church could also act as a communications hub during emergencies. Many churches already have prayer chains and other means of communications set up.

10) Prayer and Discipleship - Our country is in need of prayer. Although we were founded as a nation based on Christian principles, we are no longer a Christian nation. Chances are most of our neighbors are unchurched, many are not Christian, and some have never truly heard the Gospel message. It used to be that America took the Gospel to places that had never heard it, such as Africa and Asia. But now, America itself has become a field in need for missionary work. The Great Commission doesn't just apply to professional missionaries in the far-corners of the globe. It applies to all of us in dealing with our friends and neighbors.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
-- Matthew 28: 19, 20
What churches can do to help their members and communities prepare is in no way limited by this short list of ten things. There are many, many other possibilities, and most make terrific opportunities to reach out to the unchurched in our communities with the love of Jesus.

You can follow Tim Gamble on Twitter at

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fall Gardening Tips

August is almost here and though the heat may be blazing, it is time to start thinking about your Fall Garden activities. Here are some tips to keep you busy over the next few months:

Grow a Fall Garden. In many places across the country, mid-August through mid-September is the time to plant your Fall Garden. Crops to consider for the Fall include lettuce, radishes, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, and kale.

Plant Garlic Bulbs. September is the time to plant garlic bulbs for next year. Consider planting a couple of interesting varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange.

Harvest Apples. Many areas have u-pick apple orchards. A visit to one would make for a fun and useful way to spend a Saturday afternoon. You can also visit your local farmers' market or attend one of the many small town apple festivals that are typically held in September or early October.

Pick Nuts. September through November is the time to harvest pecans and black walnuts.

Plant Trees and Shrubs. Fall is the perfect time to plant most trees and shrubs, which means it is a great time to start your forest garden featuring fruit and nut trees.

Start Composting and Improving Your Soil. See my earlier post on Improving Soil (link will take you to my old blog) with videos and links to great resources on the topic. 

Start Making Your Lasagna Garden. Now is a great time to mark off your lasagna-garden beds for next year, lay down the newspaper and use the falling leaves and yard waste in the layers.

Grow Indoor Herbs. Many herbs, such as chives, oregano, basil, mint, and rosemary, can be grown in pots indoors during the fall and winter.

Transplant Perennials. Fall is the best time to divide and transplant most perennials.

Order Seed Catalogs. Don't forget to request seed catalogs for next year from your favorite companies. You can spend the winter months thumbing through the catalogs and dreaming big dreams.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Promoting Local Agriculture

Most of the food that citizens of Western nations eat is trucked or flown in from all over the world. For many people, the piece of fruit that they will eat today is much more a world-traveler than they are. In my local grocery stores (I'm in NC) there are fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen and canned goods, from places as far away as Chile, Peru, Argentina, and the Philippines.

But what if you suddenly couldn't import your community's food from all over the globe? Could your community survive on only the food produced locally? The fact is there are many reasons why you may not be able to import large quantities of food in the future - everything from peak oil and sky-rocketing energy prices to worldwide crop failures and food shortages caused by disease, drought or war.

Future disruptions in the food distribution system may be mild or severe, short- or long-term. Real food security depends on a community's ability to provide for itself.

Communities should encourage people to produce a portion of their own food. This can be done by reviving the Victory Gardens idea of the first two world wars (one of the major goals of my Modern Victory Movement). Communities should also promote local agriculture.

Ways to Encourage Local Food Production
  1. Promote the idea of Victory Gardens (both private and community-based) and food co-ops.
  2. Provide training courses in gardening and permaculture through local community colleges and agricultural extension offices.
  3. Remove unnecessary restrictions on people growing their own food (maintaining needed restrictions only to promote health & safety and prevent animal cruelty).
  4. Remove unnecessary restrictions on local farmers selling their crops to local markets (often put in place due to lobbying by big agri-business).
  5. Encourage the formation of farmers markets.
  6. Local relief organizations could provide vouchers or special debit cards for use at local farmers markets as part of their assistance programs.
  7. Tree-planting programs and local Arbor Day celebrations could include fruit and nut trees.
  8. Support programs to capture organic waste (food scraps, animal & human manure, leaves & other yard waste, agricultural waste) for composting to improve soils.

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