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The Case for Suspenders

Built For Fancy Pants, Refined by the Working Man

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Before oversized children were buying fruity branded computers and expensive puffed-up coffees while thinking up names for their tiny imitation dogs, suspenders were what REAL men wore to their labor intensive jobs. This quick dive into the recent past of men’s utility/work accessories will present what the modern man can hope to gain by adding this one item to their work attire. 

While in the Army at Camp McCall, NC, I became friends with another combat medic from one of the Ranger battalions who had just gotten back from a deployment to Afghanistan. I noticed he always opted to wear suspenders instead of a belt when he was road marching. Now a road march (or “rucking” or “humping the tick” as its also called) in our “Small Unit Tactics” course was our way of carrying all our equipment on our backs as we stalked as a platoon through the woods. Sometimes it’s also done for speed in a “timed road march” event, kind of like a marathon, but for men.

Military Tested

Having done this activity for years, I had never seen anyone wear suspenders until then. Once you’re walking with the “tick” on your back, you’re kind of stuck with whatever you’ve got on, in exactly the manner  it wants to ride. There usually isn’t any time to adjust things when you’re on the move, so you need to be very certain about what you choose to wear.

I waited until we had finished a troop movement before I tried to gather intel on his setup. As I casually questioned the man about his over-the-shoulders method of commanding his pantaloons, I took mental notes and it all seemed to check out.

He explained:

 “I went to a Korean tailor on Bragg Blvd where I had them sew buttons on my pants. These buttons were strategically placed so they wouldn’t rub on my back when the frame from my rucksack lay against my torso.” 

God bless those tiny Asian hands.

Korean tailors are a form of “camp follower” around every Army base I’d been. They can customize any piece of gear or clothing for a good price. Additionally they give a mean hair cut and make some of the best BBQ you’ll ever have.

He continued:

“I bought the suspenders at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning, Ga. They loop onto the buttons, and don’t rub sores on my back like the web belt normally does when you’re running through the woods or carrying a casualty on your shoulder.” 

I’d spent many days in the rain, walking and running with the “tick” on my back. When your pants are weighed down by water and mud, your belt isn’t much good. The pants just keep sagging until one day you kneel down to take a break and the crotch rips out on your pants. I’ve seen this happen more times than I care to count. This wouldn’t happen if you wore a sturdy pair of suspenders. 

You can, of course, wear both at the same time. A belt and suspenders may sound like overkill, but if you need the upward pressure on the belt line, but also desire the knife-wielding utility of a belt, I see no better way.

Suspenders in Civilian Life

If John Rambo had just worn suspenders, he would have been way more comfortable just building useful structures and being an asset to his community. Suspenders would have acted as an emotional anchor to the way of life that built the foundation of America. 

The closest civilian activity to “road marching” is your good ol hiking and backpacking. Some of you may even be familiar with the practice of “orienteering.” You can click the link to read all about this valuable skill at Info Galactic.

I recently became reacquainted with the usefulness of these nylon shoulder harnesses. I was walking back and forth to the garage while working on my greenhouse, and noticed I kept pulling up my britches. Working outdoors on my feet all summer had trimmed down my love handles and I am back to being old Mr. Hipless Board Sides. 

While at a farm and ranch supply store, I saw and instantly purchased a set of work suspenders. This, again, was a game changer for me. No longer hindered by saggy britches, I was free to run about and focus on crushing. 

A Brief History

Although suspenders likely originated at about the same time that pants came on the scene, the first patent to improve the modern suspender was in 1871 by Mr. Mark Twain himself (under his actual name Samuel Clemens, of course).

Clemens wasn’t a fan of the same garment accessory used by Napoleon. In that day, my understanding is that the common French application was a couple strips of ribbon attached to pants with buttons. These were clearly not for those in the blacksmith trade or the carpentry and masonry fields of labor. For those tasks, you need something a bit more sturdy than Red Riding Hood’s hair ribbon. 

It is likely that suspenders were also used by royalty because of their rotundness (being fat was a sign of wealth throughout antiquity). Large bellied individuals have trouble wearing a belt as any movement will send their knickers sliding. I sometimes wonder if comedian Chris Farley would have lived a few more years had he opted for a more definitive approach to trouser stabilization.

Farmers and ranchers have kept this tradition alive out of age old wisdom. I am very grateful for their longstanding wisdom. Nowadays, the stamped metal clamps that grip the belt line of the pants have improved slightly. You still have two basic designs, in case you were wondering. I opt for the clamps, but the button on ones are still widely available. With a needle and thread, you can place the buttons wherever you please. The design really hasn’t changed since my great grandfather was getting bucked off his first horse and Teddy Roosevelt was knocking teeth loose in university boxing matches. 

My grandfather used to get bucked off his wagon (yes, it’s possible to be bucked off an entire wagon), and once he even break his leg. However, he never needed to break a sweat trying to realign his trousers because he was a man of suspenders.

So if you’re a hard working man, and share the frustration with belts, try on a sturdy pair of suspenders. You can thank me later by sending us a short description of something useful you’ve built or fixed! Send your completed article (aim for less than 1,000 words) with pictures to the appropriate section editor. I look forward to reading about your accomplishments. Until next time.

Lifestyle

Making Pine Needle Soda: A Fantastic Foraged Beverage

Pine needle soda, a truly one-of-a-kind beverage, has been savored worldwide for its zesty taste and health benefits.

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Pine needle soda, a truly one-of-a-kind beverage, has been savored worldwide for its zesty taste and health benefits. It’s not just a refreshing drink, but also a creative use of natural ingredients. Here’s a simple guide to crafting this unique soda at home.

Pine needles are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which help boost the immune system. Different species of needles can offer different flavors, but it’s important to make sure the trees you harvest from are not toxic. Avoid using needles from yew, Norfolk Island pine, or Ponderosa pine. You should do additional research to insure you are staying safe.

The recipe I followed is easy and only requires a jar, strainer, and measuring cups. Start by identifying the pine tree you would like to harvest from; I used fir, tamarack, and white pine. Again, make sure you don’t use anything unsafe. You can choose to use new sprouted tips or even mature needles, which means you can also have fresh pine soda in the winter months!
You can scale up the recipe, but for reference, use the following:

  • 2 Cups Pine needles
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2-4 Tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness you desire)

For the above measurements, I recommend using a quart jar. Begin by rinsing the needles, not too thoroughly, because the carbonation comes from natural yeast living on the pine needles. Add the sugar and water and seal the jar. Leave to ferment so it can become bubbly soda! Make sure to “burp” the jar every couple of days to release some of the gas so it does not build up and explode the jar! In 5-7 days, you will have soda, God willing.

Serve over ice and with some citrus if you’d like. Enjoy!

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Lifestyle

Reconnect and Rejoice: Beartaria Times Weekly Challenge

Maintaining solid relationships with family and friends offers numerous benefits that enrich our lives in meaningful ways…

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In our fast-paced world, losing touch with friends and family members who once played significant roles in our lives is easy. This week, the Beartaria Times invites you to participate in our heartwarming challenge: Reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Give them a call, ask how they’ve been, and rekindle that bond.

Maintaining solid relationships with family and friends offers numerous benefits that enrich our lives in meaningful ways:

1. Emotional Support: Close relationships provide a robust support system during tough times, offering comfort, advice, and a sense of belonging.

2. Improved Mental Health: Regular interactions with loved ones reduces feelings of loneliness and depression, contributing to mental well-being.

3. Increased Longevity: Studies have shown that strong social connections tend to help people live longer and enjoy better health.

4. Enhanced Happiness: Sharing moments, memories, and experiences with others brings joy and fulfillment, fostering a more positive outlook on life.

5. Personal Growth: Friends and family often challenge us to grow, learn, and become better versions of ourselves.

6. Creating Memories: Every interaction creates new memories, adding richness to our personal histories and offering stories to cherish for years to come.

We encourage you to take this challenge to heart and reach out to someone you miss. Whether it’s a friend from high school, a distant relative, or a former colleague, a simple phone call can reignite connections and brighten your day and theirs.

Once you’ve reconnected, share your stories and experiences on the Beartaria Times community app. Post about who you called, the memories you shared, and how the conversation went. Did you learn something new? Did you laugh about old times? These stories can inspire others to take similar steps in their lives.

Join us in this week’s challenge and celebrate the beauty of human connection. Let’s make an effort to nurture our relationships and remind those we care about that they are valued and remembered.

Happy connecting, Beartarians! We look forward to hearing your heartwarming stories.

Sincerly,

– The Beartaria Times Team

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Lifestyle

Into the Wilderness: Part 1 Knives and Knife Skills 

Knives will perform numerous tasks, better or worse, based on their grind, edge geometry, and thickness. That said, I have found that a full flat grind is ideal for food prep and butchering, though a high saber grind works well too. 

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By Gabriel- The Last Huntsman

As with many of us in the Beartaria community, we have found the mundane existence of modern Babylon completely unappealing, ungodly, and unfulfilling. As a result, many of us seek to make our way, either by downsizing our footprint in the modern digital world, homesteading our sustenance, or becoming producers. For some of us, however, that also means getting out into the wilderness; far away from civilization, we test ourselves and our bodies to become more like our ancestors of old,  becoming non-domesticated humans. 

In this article series, I will detail at least one part of the wilderness- a popular term coined as bushcraft. Bushcraft seemingly has taken many different names and forms.

For me, it’s practicing basic wood skills such as shelter craft, fire craft, knife skills, axe skills, and other tools, and can even have some hunting or tactical applications.

Though you can write a whole book on bushcraft, as many already have, we’re just going to get into some knife basics for this article. 

Choosing Your Knife

Knives are mankind’s first tool; they are essential for basic tasks, whether processing your food, wood processing, cutting cordage, etc. In addition, knives can be used in a myriad of practical tasks and defensive means. While having a flimsy folding knife can be ok for opening boxes or backyard/vehicle camping, bushcrafting skills require having a solid and reliable fixed-blade knife, ideally full tang, for practical tasks.

You will have to determine if a smaller knife or a larger knife would better suit your purposes. A saying often goes, however, that you can do small tasks with a big knife if you have to, but you can’t do big tasks with a small knife, but having a smaller blade is less weight and easier to conceal. That’s just food for thought. Another consideration is steel choice; I will simplify carbon steel or stainless steel. Knife Nerds is an excellent resource to dabble into all things knife steel. Carbon steel, while generally tougher than stainless steel, can be prone to rust. So if you’re in a coastal environment, it can be hard to maintain. Stainless steel is more rust-resistant and can have better edge-holding capabilities. However, it can be more prone to snapping or chipping during extreme use.

Knife Skills

Using your knife to split wood is known as batoning. This is done by utilizing your knife as a wedge while you use another log (baton) as a mallet to beat the spine of your knife blade through the log. This can be a rather rigorous task on your knife. However, it is sometimes needed to make wood burnable when conditions are wet or when it’s hard to stabilize a log and safely use an axe. In many cases, the wood logs could be wet; however, the wood on the inside will be dryer and more suitable for fire craft. Splitting wood is necessary for ease of burning to cook, keep warm, and many other things.

Making feather sticks with a knife is another handy bushcrafting knife skill. It is done by finely slicing small curls of wood into a bundle. This bundle is perfect for fire tinder. While most small sticks, twigs, and other tinder may be too big or have too much moisture to catch a spark well, the feather sticks can be from a freshly split log that you just have batoned, which should be dryer. Making feather sticks takes time to master, learning what knives work best and what wood works best. The finer and thinner your wood curls are, the better; they will catch a spark or flame easier to start your fire.

Chopping is another handy knife skill to practice. I’m sure many will ask why you would use a knife to chop when you can use an axe. Well, for one, it’s more likely to have a knife on your person than an axe. If you’re hunting, scouting, or hiking, having a solid knife is lighter than packing a knife and an axe. Finally, it can be safer, as having an axe in full swing can be more likely to miss or over-swing. Having a medium to larger knife size will obviously help with the performance of this task. Good ergonomics will help the knife maintain in hand and absorb shock during chopping tasks. 

Striking a ferro rod (ferrocerium rod) is a skill that can help you get a fire going in your wilderness adventures. Firstly a ferro rod is a metal rod that will produce sparks when struck with a flat edge and can last thousands of strikes. So why use it over a lighter? Lighters can be finicky at best; they can get too cold, wet, or drain themselves of fluid. That is a big no-no, mainly when you’re depending on it.

So simply put, Ferro rods are just a survivalist/bushcrafter’s go-to fire-starting tool. Ideally, your knife will have a 90-degree spine on the back edge of the blade. This sharp, flat edge can strike and scrape the ferro rod. However, not all knives have a sharp spine, so having a small scraper or a spare knife may be necessary. In a worst-case scenario, you can use the edge of your knife; however, this is not recommended as it will damage your edge. When using the Ferro rod with your blade, you want to ensure your rod is as close to your tinder bundle (feather sticks) as possible. This will maximize the amount of sparks and heat transferred into those fine wood curls to get a fire going. 

Notches are another bushcrafting knife skill that is good to learn. It is essentially cutting a notch in various shapes to allow cordage to be held in place for constructing many things in the wilderness. Notches can be used to build tent stakes, fire spits, shelters, and even wild game traps. Notches can be carved directly using the knife or with a knife and baton. Though there are several notches, the few fundamental ones are the square notch, v notch, and stake notch. They may seem self-explanatory; however, carving these can take a measure of skill with your knife.  Square notches can be done by simply partially cross-batoning your knife into the wood, then doing so again, a short distance from the first, and twisting your knife- this will pop the excess wood. Stake Notches are achieved by partially cross-batoning and carving the extra wood with your knife toward your baton mark. V notches are done by cutting a ‘V-shaped groove into the wood.  

Then, one of the oldest knife skills is probably out there, processing animals or vegetation for food. People have been using knives to kill and butcher their livestock and wild game or cut up their humble veggies since humanity’s beginning. As we return to our roots, having these knife skills can make things much more manageable and save you money. 

Knives will perform numerous tasks, better or worse, based on their grind, edge geometry, and thickness. That said, I have found that a full flat grind (shown on the knives pictured above) is ideal for food prep and butchering, though a high saber grind works well too. 

 As I’ve stated, knives are one of mankind’s primary tools. We will always have a place to use a blade, especially as we separate ourselves from this fruitless modern world. These are just a few simple knife skills necessary for bushcrafting and wilderness adventures. The easy way to practice and master knife skills is to get out there and try to have fun. As you enjoy yourself, you’ll find ways to make things happen. Always check out my content on my Youtube channel, Beartaria Times app, and Instagram at The Last Huntsman. Feel free to follow up and message me with any questions. Finally, be prepared both physically and spiritually. God bless and carry on. 

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