12 December 2014: MidWeight Testing Done ... a big YES
We are very, very happy with the results of the testing on our MidWeight Fabric. I was concerned it might be too warm in warm weather, not warm enough in cold weather, not tough enough or not wind-resistant enough. But it actually really outperformed all of my expectations, and even my hopes. We will be making about 300 yards of MidWeight Fabric with the yarn we have available at present. That’s enough Fabric for about 75-100 pieces of clothing. It will be Fall before we will have more. We'll definitely make some MidWeight Fabric in LYNX Pattern and our new BRINDLE Pattern (actually the same pattern as LYNX, but with darker colors), as well as DRAB. We have some other color ideas and suggestions.
8 December 2014: WeatherWool in the Rain
We spent today ... all day ... out in steady rain yesterday. And rather than a BLOG entry I decided to do a page on it in the Field Notes section.
20 November 2014: MidWeight Testing, Show Prep ...
Took the old hound out this morning, hoping for a goose. Saw deer three times, black ducks, mallards, wood ducks and some really big ducks I could not identify. I was focused on geese, however, and did not really consider shooting at any of the ducks, although right now duck season is also open. The geese I did see were out of range. But in temps of about 25F/-4C the MidWeight Pants were great, even with no longjohns. Not that it was a really cold day, but for light pants over bare legs, I could not have asked for more. And the MidWeight Fabric is seeming pretty tough, too. No way I will ever be as tough as my old dog, tho. She is 13, and I guess she was aggravated with me for not shooting any geese for her to retrieve. So she went swimming a couple of times in the freezing weather, I guess trying to remind me what she was really there for? Please check out MidWeight Testers Pants Comments for more info on our MidWeight Fabric and MidWeight Pants.
The other thing going on is we are preparing for showing WeatherWool in Brooklyn. Tomorrow is setup day and we’ve got tons to do!
Lastly, JK stopped by. He's a great guy with plenty of interesting stories to tell us about. We had a nice lunch together and he left with our first Poncho and our first Blanket! Hope he loves them!!!
8 November 2014: Lot Going On!
This time of year it would be great to spend a lot of time out in the woods, but there is just too much else going on. I did get out for a few hours with my Muzzleloader on Monday morning. The temp was a little above freezing and the wind was not strong, but pretty breezy and bouncing around from all different directions. Wearing our MidWeight Testers Pants without any longjohns was just right. I did stillhunt within range of one deer ... 50 yards or so and it did not know I was there. But as usual it was in a brushy spot, and before I could tell whether it was antlerless or not (it was an antlerless-deer-first season), the wind swirled again and that was that. More importantly tho, the wool is feeling great!
We're also working on a bunch of other items. The MidWeight Pants continue to test really well, too! The Product List on the website has gotten pretty long!
And ... at the NRA Annual Meeting in April in Indy, we met a gentleman named Heath Gunns, with the very fine organization Honored American Veterans Afield. The name tells you what HAVA is about! Heath sent us a picture from an elk hunt in Montana. Heath has been wearing WeatherWool out in the field quite a bit this year, and one of his outings will be filmed for television. Pictured from left to right are: Guide Bill W., U.S. Army Ret SSgt Timm G., HAVA Outreach Manager Heath Gunns and ranch Manager Mike D. Heath is wearing WeatherWool FullWeight Pants and All-Around Jac in LYNX Pattern. Thus far, Heath's been good in WeatherWool in temperatures ranging from 15F to 65F. THANK YOU for the picture and the update, Heath! Please LIKE Honored American Veterans Afield's page on Facebook. THANKS! -- ralph
Heath is the gent without Blaze Orange
1 November 2014: Update from Afghanistan and Busy Times
We have been getting tremendous feedback from everyone who tries WeatherWool, and that is extremely satisfying.
We are in the midst of developing a bunch of different pieces, all of which can be seen under the PRODUCTS Tab. Our Hoodies and Scarves are in production now and we look forward to shipping them soon!
I had to postpone our trip to Vancouver Island. John Sievers, our outfitter, recommended a postponement because torrential rain would not have allowed us to experience the outing we were looking for. John and Kathy Sievers are tops at what they do, and really good people to spend time with. Check out www.BCHuntingAdventure.com for some really interesting possibilities!
13 October 2014: Lots Going On!
Well, lately I haven't been keeping up too well with the BLOG. It seems like Facebook is better for this, at least for shorter entries. But a lot has been going on! We are working on a bunch of items including Ladies Pants and Jackets (three different types now because Debby didn't like the way the first one was going!), Mouton Vest (almost finished) Mouton Jacket, Scarves (pretty easy, and in production now), Poncho (a million possibilities but the first one is in production), Blankets and more.
Next week I am heading to British Columbia's Vancouver Island to hunt Blacktail Deer and Black Bear and Mushrooms and some other great wild edibles including I hope Salmon, Dungeness Crab and Prawns. We'll be wearing WeatherWool, of course, and our MidWeight Pants will get a good test. But this trip is also partly an exploratory trip for another company I have co-founded, DiningWild. It is kind of interesting how things circle around ... I've always loved the outdoors, and in particular the gathering of wild foods ... mostly fish and game but also wild fruits and berries and dandelion greens, clams, crabs. It is love of wild foods that has kept me hunting. I don't think of myself as a sportsman, really. I'm a meat hunter and a catch-and-cook fisherman. My love of hunting got me involved with retailing woolens for the outdoors, which of course led me to found WeatherWool. Not so long after starting WeatherWool, I chanced to meet a local forager who is now my friend Dan. Dan is helping me learn about foraging (Debby and I gathered about $100 worth of wild mushrooms yesterday.) and I helped Dan get started hunting. He had some great days in pursuit of wild turkey and deer. And now, Dan and I are bringing our love of wild foods to a larger audience with DiningWild. We are just getting our website, www.DiningWild.com going. We are selling foraged mushrooms and plants to local restaurants as well as to the public. Dan has been leading people on foraging walks and conducting educational presentations. Next year we plan to host the first DiningWild Expeditions ... we will host a group at a great place, such as Coastal British Columbia, and spend several days gathering, preparing and enjoying the local wild foods.
17 September 2014: “Fit Model”
Well, as time goes by I am becoming more and more of a fashionista ... and today was another step. We’ve been working for a long time on the fit of our Ladies Pants and Ladies Jacket. We have not been satisfied with the way these items looked when worn. So today we had a session with what is known as a FIT MODEL ... Jaycee is a perfect Ladies Size 8, and she tried on several of our prototypes while Debby and our consultants JR and Tracy tested and discussed a hundred different tweaks to our tailoring. This was all way beyond me, except in the general sense. But we made important progress. We (that is very definitely the ‘royal we’) will make a flock of adjustments and meet again with Jaycee for another Fit Session. Jaycee was very helpful and is a very outdoors-oriented lady. And she is a direct descendant of Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is easy to find a lot of info on Shackleton on the web. But very basically, Shackleton led an ill-fated 1914 expedition to the Antarctic on the English ship Endurance. When their ship was crushed by ice and his men stranded, Shackleton undertook one of the most amazing rescue missions ever attempted, let alone accomplished. It’s very definitely worth checking out, and numerous books and documentaries provide the extreme details. Shackleton and his men relied on wool for protection against extremely harsh elements.
16 September 2014: American Field Show in Boston
This weekend we showed WeatherWool at the American Field Exhibition and Market in Boston. A nice little event. The staff photographer took this pic of Debby and me and put it on Instagram, which I am told I must get up to speed on ... we'll see. Debby is wearing a late prototype of our Hooded Sweatshirt and I'm wearing a WeatherWool Ball Cap. Debby doesn't like me to wear WeatherWool at the shows because she doesn't want people thinking WeatherWool will make them look like me. So, we’ve got HEARTS and LIKES and HASHTAGS and AT-SIGNS and all this is good for getting people to know who we are. Or so the 20-somethings tell me ...
7 September 2014: Good Stuff!
Well, I guess nobody would be surprised to read I like getting orders ... and this week we received orders from Australia, the Netherlands and Norway. Yes, I definitely like that! THANK YOU.
Today, Debby and I were out walking and Debby decided she wanted to go off the pavement. Usually she likes pavement because she prefers not to have to pay attention to her footing. Mother Nature rewarded our off-road walking with these beautiful oyster mushrooms. We will probably savor them in an omelet tomorrow.
4 September 2014: Production Updates
We have our FullWeight Pants in stock now, and our MidWeight Test Pants are available in sizes 34, 36 and 38. We are getting Bibs underway. And a bit of a surprise to all of us ... we have been redesigning our All-Around Jac ... not really the features of the AAJ, more a case of the way the Jac fits. And we decided a good way to proceed is to start fresh, make a prototype of our SkiJac, and then rework the fit of the AAJ once we have the SkiJac in good shape. This will be good news for Chad, who will be testing the SkiJac proto while on Ski Patrol up at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont. We’ll soon be working on the fit of our Ladies Jacket and Ladies Pants also. We have the design features nailed down, but we have not settled on the cut, even tho we have made a few protos. So ... We are scheduling a session with a ‘fit model’ soon. Holy Cow, this is so far from anything I would ever have imagined myself doing!!
23 August 2014: Moose Chili for Dinner!
22 August 2014: Amazon
Amazon, the giant online retailer, has asked us to list WeatherWool on their marketplace. Very interesting and we are going to give it a whirl!
18 August 2014: BUTTONS??!!!
Buttons ... We use the same type of button for ALMOST every situation where we need a button. It's a US Military standard so it is available at all times and having just one type of button makes things simpler. BUT of course simplicity couldn't last forever. We're working on a Ladies Jacket with an optional Mouton Fur Collar, and we need a tiny button to secure the optional collar in place. And we decided to use Rail (also known as Slot) Buttons instead of regular buttons just about everywhere we use buttons. So we visited our button supplier, Emsig, in New York City's Garment District. Basically, if you want buttons made in America, Emsig is the name. These guys have BUTTONS. Emsig has a huge room full of rows of shelves with little sample boxes. Each little box has a couple hundred sample buttons inside. There are many thousands of those little boxes in that room ... At bottom is Russell Breiter, of Emsig, the Button King!
There are THOUSANDS of different types of Buttons in this room.
Russell Breiter, the always-cheerful Button King!
14 August 2014: Complete WeatherWool Outfit
Well, it is summer, so it was not exactly necessary to get decked out in WeatherWool, but Alex figured it was time for a picture of someone -- him -- wearing a complete outfit of WeatherWool. So ... Big Brim Boonie, All-Around Jac, Basic Vest, MidWeight Shirt, FullWeight Pants, Muff. This was great to see.
Alex wearing all WeatherWool (except for the sneakers)!
11 August 2014: Sheep to Shirt to Shepherd!
Wow, this is cool. We have prided ourselves on being a ‘sheep to shirt operation’. That is, we purchased our wool from the man who raises the sheep, and we know pretty much everyone involved with every step in our production. But as of the last week or so, we have become a ‘sheep to shirt to shepherd operation’. The man who raised our sheep bought from us an All-Around Jac ... and he liked it so much he bought another All-Around Jac for his son and couple of Basic Vests and Ball Caps. I've got to get down to New Mexico and take some WeatherWool pictures with our shepherds and the sheep!!! Maybe we can get a ewe to wear a Boonie Hat long enough to get in a picture with us?
10 August 2014: DRAB Pants and Double Hoods in Stock
On Friday we got in stock our Double Hoods and our DRAB Pants. The Double Hoods have two layers of our FullWeight Wool, and will attach to the buttons on the back of our All-Around Jac, Ladies Jacket and Mouton Vest. The Double Hoods are available DRAB and LYNX Pattern. The DRAB Pants are actually available in two weights of fabric. We are offering DRAB Pants in FullWeight fabric and, for people who would like to help us test the Pants in return for a reduced price, we’ve made a few pairs of DRAB Pants in MidWeight fabric. Our line is filling out and I love this!!
3 August 2014: WeatherWool on the slopes ... SkiWear coming up! (GULP!?)
Oh ... I almost forgot! We are just getting started on a SKI JACKET! This is completely unfamiliar territory to me. I've never skied at all. But over the years quite a few people have told me wool works well on the slopes, and we did have a heavy-duty skier testing our All-Around Jac and Mouton Hat on the slopes last year. Chad Borofsky has been on the Ski Patrol at Sugar Bush, Vermont, for over 20 years. Based on Chad’s experiences with WeatherWool FullWeight fabric, we are confident that, with his help, we can design effective SkiWear. This is going to be really cool!! For the upcoming season we plan to make a handful of prototypes for purchase at a reduced price by those who wish to help us develop next year’s production designs.
2 August 2014: Muffs, Ladies Jacket, Hooded Sweatshirt
Our first Muffs are done. Another version of the Ladies Jacket and still another set of changes (small ones, at least!) to be implemented. We have made a bunch prototypes of the Ladies Jackets, and we keep getting closer and closer to what we want, but not quite there yet! Also pretty big for us was another prototype Hoodie ... This one we really like a lot ... we made it in our BLACK FullWeight fabric. We have a few changes to make to the Hoodie, but we are close to putting this in production and we’ll have Hoodies this year. Here are a couple of pictures of the latest Hoodie Prototype, in BLACK. Our production consultant, JR, is wearing the Hoodie ... JR is 6 feet tall and about 175 pounds, a good size for modeling our clothes, and a size I wish I still was!! We’ll produce the Hoodie in BLACK, DRAB, DUFF and LYNX Pattern pretty soon!
25 July 2014: New York City Garment District
We picked up our Basic Vest from our tailors yesterday. We are working with some stone-cold professionals in the New York City garment district. Initially I had avoided the Garment District, even tho we live only a few miles away, because I thought a small-batch, highly customized outfit like ours would get lost in the midst of everything going on there. But what we have learned since is the cutting and sewing that is still done here in America is focused on smaller, high-end specialty makers like WeatherWool. So the NYC end of things has been working very well indeed!
Here are a couple of pictures of WeatherWool garments in production. First is Xiao Ping, who manages the sewing team handling our Basic Vest. Whenever I have seen her, she is full of energy and good cheer.
Xiao Ping working on a WeatherWool Garment
And below is a picture of David in the midst of the extreme activity in his own shop, where our FullWeight and (test) MidWeight Pants are being made. You can see why I worried things were too crazy! But thinking about it, I guess it looks a lot like my own desk. In the middle foreground of the picture are pieces of our Pants, waiting to be sewn together. A very large percentage of New York’s Garment District workers are immigrants (legal!) from China and Korea. Although I do not know any of them personally yet, I see what I was brought up to admire and respect: people who are willing to work hard to do a job right, and who appreciate the opportunity to do so here in the United States.
David, the Proprietor, in his shop. No space is wasted in the Garment District!
23 July 2014: Basic Vest This Week
We will be taking possession of our Basic Vest tomorrow, and we’ll begin shipping on Friday. The Basic Vest will be available at the pre-order price of $300 until Friday. Regular pricing of $350 starts Friday. More information available on the Basic Vest page under the Products tab. THANK YOU.
19 July 2014: Coming Up
We are working on several items now. Ladies Jacket, Ladies Pants, Hooded Sweatshirt. We are updating our All-Around Jac. Our Basic Vest and Men’s Pants and Muff and Double Hood will all be shipping within a month.
16 July 2014: Suburban Deer Cam
WeatherWool operates out of our old house in the old suburb of South Orange, New Jersey, just a few miles West of New York City. South Orange claims to be America’s First Suburb, dating back to the Civil War ... perhaps a dubious distinction, but nevertheless, it indicates that our town was developed a long time ago by American standards. There has not been any vacant land around here for quite a while. But each of the last few summers, deer have been living in our neighborhood, mostly laying up during the day wherever somebody has a thick patch of shrubs and browsing shrubs and flowers at night. They come from the South Mountain Reservation, a 2000+ acre park about 1.5 miles from here. Some of the bucks that show up are pretty serious, and we decided a couple of days ago to put up a trail camera -- in this case a ‘yardcam’, to watch the development of the antlers over these last 6 or so weeks of growth. Hereabouts, bucks start rubbing trees in early September, so I think the antler growth will continue until then. Two 8-pointers in this picture. Bigger than almost all the deer I see in the woods!
13 July 2014: Developing a CAPOTE with Tom Brown III / Primitive Arts Collective
We are just now getting started on a project with Tom Brown III, founder of the Primitive Arts Collective. Tom teaches and encourages an appreciation of nature and of primitive skills, believing that an understanding of nature and of our ancient survival skills will add to our appreciation of today's world, enable greater freedom and independence in the technological present, and help us create a brighter future.
The first piece we are working on together will be our version of the centuries-old capote, which was originally developed by the voyageurs in North-Central USA and Canada in the early 1600s. The first capotes were improvised from Hudson Bay blankets. Ours of course will be purpose-built from WeatherWool FullWeight Fabric in DRAB (at least for starters). A capote is a winter coat, reaching down to the mid-thigh or a little longer. The sleeves tend to be large and loose, and most capotes are belted at the waist. Many capotes also have a hood. We don’t have any pictures of capotes to put here now because we haven’t made even a prototype yet. If you'd like to see what capotes look like, please search for images of "mountain man capote" or "capote jacket". We should be able to get a photo of our first prototype up here within 3 weeks or so. When we were looking at pictures of capotes, it was obvious they would work great in a primitive setting (400 years of proof there!) but we also automatically thought they would be really cool on a city street. You don’t see anything like them in public at present.
10 July 2014: Ladies Jacket
We’ve been working on a Ladies Jacket, and we’ll be putting one into very limited production before winter. The Ladies Jacket is based on our All-Around Jac, but cut for women. There are also several design differences. We’ve added knitted woolen cuffs (not visible) within the outer cuff. The inner cuffs are several inches long and will really seal out the cold. Inside the jacket are drawstrings at either side of the waist that can be used to snug the jacket across the lower back, creating a waistline if desired. The cape (double yoke) extends out over the shoulders a bit, and the chest pockets are gone. We are making the cargo and hand warmer pockets a little smaller than shown here. Debby is working on a Mouton Collar add-on that can be buttoned on or off as needed. The Ladies Jacket is shown here in DUFF color. All suggestions are welcome.
Ladies Jacket Proto
4 July 2014: Happy FOURTH OF JULY EVERYONE!
We actually received the SEAL Team 10 Challenge Coins and Patches earlier in the week, but it seems appropriate to post them today. A few weeks ago, we got a call from a gentleman who said he was an armorer to SEAL Team 10. He was careful to make sure we understood he was not a SEAL himself, but an armorer to the SEALs. He said some of the SEALs had WeatherWool and they loved it, and he was hoping he could get some too. So we got some WeatherWool into his hands, and a few days ago he sent us the items in the picture below. We are not sure (but we have a pretty good idea) how the WeatherWool got into the hands of members of SEAL Team 10, but regardless, it is great to know our guys out in the field in Afghanistan are wearing WeatherWool. THANKS TO SEAL TEAM 10 and TO OUR NEW ARMORER FRIEND for the Challenge Coins and the Patches!! Happy FOURTH OF JULY to Everyone and especially to our men and women in uniform everywhere.
25 June 2014
We have in stock now a few items made in BLACK and DUFF (light brown) FullWeight Fabric. So far, we have Mouton Hats, Boonie Hats and Big Brim Boonie Hats made in the new colors, as well as our original DRAB and LYNX™ Pattern. We’re also making Muffs, Vests and Men’s Pants in all four fabrics. We’ll get online ordering up soon. Of course, feel free to order by phone in the meantime.
WeatherWool Mouton Hat
22 June 2014
Development of our Ladies Jac continues. We were hoping we could make a removable cape but just couldn't get it to the point that we all liked it. So, the Ladies Jac will have a double yoke (attached cape) similar to the yoke on the All-Around Jac. The cape on the Ladies Jac will extend a little bit beyond the shoulders, tho, and will not be sewn down in that area. The Jac will be cut for women, of course. It will feature narrower shoulders, wider hips, extended sleeves with internal merino cuff. Probably will have two draw strings ... one to snug the jacket across the lumbar region and the other to help seal out air at the bottom. The Ladies Jac will be relatively longer at the sleeve and bottom than the All-Around Jac. Input always more than welcome!!
19 June 2014
Yesterday my Dad, Ralph DiMeo Sr., was interred at Washington Crossing National Cemetery. Dad was 91, and had a full and wonderful life. He took great care of us, and nobody ever tried harder. Pop was a Hard Hat Diver in World War II, and we’ve been told his picture and bars will be displayed in the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. We are extremely thankful for this. The picture below was taken during WWII in the Philippines, when Dad (on the right) was about 20.
Some of the guys from the USS Seekonk, in the Philippines in World War II.
My Dad is on the right.
7 June 2014. Two hundred thirty eight years ago today ...
Richard Henry Lee's motion to the Continental Congress, 7 June 1776: "Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
4 June 2014
Today we met again with our tailors and designers and we saw the final version of our Basic Men’s Vest. We’ll probably come up with another name for it, but for now ...
This will be a great Vest for wear under our AAJ or on its own. Two securely zippered front pockets, waist adjustment at the rear, buttons close all the way up to the neck to deal with real winter.
We are accepting orders now, and we expect to begin delivery by end of July. More info under Products/Basic Men’s Vest.
First look at our Basic Men’s Vest, available in LYNX (shown) or DRAB
28 May 2014
Men’s FullWeight Pants and Vests going into production. Should be finished by end of July. Also just got a pair of MidWeight Pants that I can test a bit myself in the next couple of days. We’ll make about 8 pairs of MidWeight Pants for testing over the next few months. The MidWeight fabric is about 14 ounces per square yard (about 19.4 ounces for our FullWeight) and seems like tremendous stuff. But we need to find out how tough it is and how warm it is, and that will take some time. If it passes muster, we’ll make more of it. We’re still working on our Muff. We’re also still working on a (reversible?) Mouton Hood and a FullWeight Hood for the All-Around Jacs.
Here is what our Vest looks like just after the fabric -- in this case FullWeight DRAB and FullWeight LYNX Pattern -- has been cut into pieces. There are 9 pieces of fabric in the pattern. Plus of course buttons, zippers, thread and elastic to adjust the waist.
13 May 2014
Working on Women’s Hoodie and Women’s Pants. Putting FullWeight Men’s Pants and FullWeight Vest into production in DRAB and LYNX. If you want Pants or Vest please contact us! Women’s and Men’s Pants will be of the same design ... plenty of pockets. Front cargo pockets with great bellows and zipper and snap-flap closure. Gusseted crotch, doubled seat. Extra long zipper. Women’s Pants will have same features as men but will be sized and fitted for women. The Women’s Hoodie will offer raglan sleeves, wool-knit recessed cuff, drawstrings at hood, waist and hem. Also we are trying for a removable snap-on cape. There will be handwarmer pockets plus cargo pockets with zipper and snap-flap closures. We’ll get some pictures up before long, I hope!!
28 April 2014
We’re back from the NRA Annual Meeting in Indy. It was a great show and we met a huge number of super nice people. Got some really good feedback from people who already have WeatherWool, and had the opportunity to introduce a large number of people to our work. We also were told our prototype MUFF is really great for icefishing! Long week, great to be home again after an all-night drive. Back to work now, with lots to do!!
22 April 2014
We have MidWeight Pants and Shirt and Vest in DRAB to test out. We’re heading off to the NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis in the morning, and Alex will be wearing the MidWeight. We’ve also just gotten our hands on a proto Mouton Hood, which is really something. That will be awesome buttoned onto one of our Jackets. Hope we see you at Booth 2955!
18 April 2014
We are definitely going to produce a Muff, and we have just made another prototype for examination. The Muffs will have FullWeight Wool on the outside, knit cuffs, and Mouton (wonderfully soft and select lamb’s wool) on the inside. The Muff will also have a belt strap and loops, so you can wear the Muff around your waist on the outside of your jacket. Everyone who has handled the Muff really loves it. We are thinking of making the Muff in some bright colors, in addition to LYNX, DRAB, DUFF, BLACK and BRINDLE.
The first Muff we made
3 April 2014
We are working on a Boonie Hat with a wider brim ... The Navy SEALs and others in the know (particularly Darrell Holland of Holland's Shooters Supply) are telling us a Boonie needs a brim of 3-1/4 inches (8.3 cm). Well, we made one with a 3-inch (7.6 cm) brim and it still seems really wide. Looks like a cowboy hat from the top. It sure does a good job of breaking up the silhouette. We just picked it up from the hatmaker and haven't had a chance to test it outside much.
The hat is a size Large, and I need a 2X, so it definitely doesn’t set on my head right. But I could tell that even at 3 inches, the brim is not too floppy, which is what I was worried about. We’ll have to make some more of them for testing. We need to see what happens after some time in heavy rain. Click any of the pictures to enlarge.
23 March 2014
It was just so nice over the weekend, I had to get out to The Swamp ... our little place in the swamps in North Jersey. Saturday was one of those days when you could really feel spring busting loose … although they are forecasting ANOTHER snowstorm coming tonight! Took my dog, Camo, a Large Munsterlander, who really LOVES The Swamp.
We’d barely left the truck when a hawk flew in front of us ... I would guess it was a sharp-shinned hawk. We walked a little farther and I was surprised to see two deer running up the hillside on the opposite side of the Rockaway River, about 100 yards away. It didn’t make sense they’d be running from me ... I'd hardly made a sound. The ground was wet and I was walking absolutely silently. Maybe they smelled me but even so, their panic was strange. If they’d stayed bedded in the weeds I never would have seen them. I was walking very slowly, and a hundred yards further on I spotted two deer in the woods, only about 50 yards from me. Had I been gun-hunting deer, one of them would have been mine. It was strange they were not focused on me ... then I realized what was happening. The dog wears a collar with an ID tag that clinks very slightly when she moves faster than a walk. The deer had heard the dog jingle, and their attention was focused on her. Interesting!
When I noticed a statuesque great blue heron that had not noticed me, I took that as a good sign. Herons are extremely wary, and will not tolerate the presence of a human, at least around here. I don’t know why because I don’t think anyone ever harms them.
We’ve had a long cold winter, with a lot of snow cover. Often deep snow and a lot of the time frozen with a thick crust. I'd been wondering how the turkeys made it thru and was soon looking at some fresh turkey scratchings, which was nice. While examining the turkey sign, I was surprised by a woodcock that flew off from just a few feet away. The dog looked over at me and back toward where the timberdoodle had been, and I had to wonder what was on her mind. Camo’s breed goes back to the 1300’s in Europe. The Large Munsterlanders have been bred to be the all-around dog on a family farm. They will point, retrieve from land and water, run rabbits, trail wounded deer and very enthusiastically protect against varmints. Woodcock are fairly rare in The Swamp ... I hadn’t seen one in maybe 10 years. That last time, Camo had smelled the timberdoodle while still inside my truck, and actually jumped out the window to flush it.
A little farther on I was looking over some more turkey scratchings and noticed Camo up ahead, doing her version of a point. She doesn’t do your classic point ... she’ll just stiffen up and stare at whatever she is smelling. But sure enough, a second woodcock flushed from practically right under her nose.
While I was telling her what a fine “huntin’ doag” she is, we heard a group of Canada Geese calling, and watched as they approached us from well above the treetops. Why geese, which are mostly very cautious and spooky around here, typically announce their approach and yack about it has always made me smile and wonder. We watched about 15 geese set their wings from way up above the trees and sort of float down to a soft ‘landing’ on the Rockaway River.
The swamp maples along the river were showing their red buds of spring; definitely a very welcome sight after this long winter.
Before Camo, we had another LM named Brock. When he died we buried him at The Swamp on a knoll my late partner named Brock’s Hill. Camo started acting extremely birdy as we approached Brock’s Hill, and when I saw her locked up in a nice point on top of Brock’s Hill I figured she must have another woodcock. But it turned out she was pointing a woodchuck hole. Camo is pure poison on raccoons and woodchucks but this was the first time she’d ever pointed a chuck hole!
Continuing on, we encountered a flock of male redwing blackbirds perched in the upper branches of the swamp maples bordering the Rockaway River. The trees were really budding out and the redwings, first I've seen this year, made a strong case for spring!
A few minutes later we passed Brock’s Hill again, and this time the woodchuck was out next to his hole. He was maybe the biggest chuck I've ever seen. I don’t know if Camo saw him or not, because he saw us and froze, only 20 yards away. She had his scent tho, and seemed to be in a staredown with the chuck. I was glad she didn’t go after it because not only was this chuck a monster, but he was in the midst of a tangle of multi-flora rose, and fighting the chuck in there would have been a real mess. That was the first time I ever knew Camo not to do everything in her power to tackle a woodchuck. Maybe she is mellowing out ... she’s 13 now.
Heading back toward the truck I spotted a nice buck rub from last fall, and was kind of surprised I had not noticed it before. Standing and wondering how I'd missed it, I caught a small movement in the distance and was pretty sure it was the back of a turkey moving behind a knoll. I put my binos on the area and spotted what I think was a 2nd turkey. This one was a large gobbler with bright red head. I hope he stays right there another month until the turkey opener!
We also saw a flock of 30 or so common mergansers, which I don’t think I have ever seen before at The Swamp.
We went out again on Sunday morning … the day somewhat cooler and still feeling like spring, but nowhere near as nice as Saturday. Saw two more woodcock and a raccoon swimming across the Rockaway. The Swamp has a lot of coon, but they are normally nocturnal and rarely seen. And this is the only time I've ever seen a coon swimming. It seemed to be very comfortable in the river, and could have made part of the crossing on fallen trees, but stayed in the water all the way.
When I saw a turkey vulture circling the shore of the pond, I was curious about what would have attracted it. At the edge of the pond was a large carp, about 26 inches long, that seemed to have been freshly killed. We have a lot of otters in the area, and they certainly visit our pond. Checking on the web, I find they do at least sometimes kill and eat large carp. It surprised me that this carp was full of roe, or at least that’s what it looked like. Around here, carp spawn in June, so I didn’t expect roe in March. About 30 yards away, out on the ice, was the picked skeleton of another 2-foot carp. The pond has been covered with thick ice and snow, so maybe the carp was winter-killed. But it was up on the bank, and looked like it had been alive pretty recently.
22 March 2014
We have another bolt of MidWeight Fabric to test. We like this one but don't think it is light enough. Anyway, we haven't had it out in the weather yet because we are also working on the design of our pants and vest at the same time ... so the only two pieces of clothing we've made so far are with the tailors ... This proto MidWeight is about 14.5 oz per square yard ... which is 3/4 the weight of our FullWeight. The fabric feels great but is probably going to turn out to be too heavy to be our MidWeight. Makes some good-looking garments in DRAB tho. And they feel great too! How important are chest pockets on the Vest? We are thinking this vest ... our basic Vest (which we may wind up naming Basic Vest!) won’t have chest pockets ... but if people mostly want them, we’ll add them. The side pockets will have hidden zippers that will open downward. I really like the cargo pockets on the Pants. The have bellows on bottom and double bellows on front. The pocket edges on the front of the pants are sewn flush and flat so they will not catch on brush. The pockets are secured by zippers. The flaps are sewn down on the front of the leg and secured down by a zipper on the side of the leg. All input welcome, for sure!
Prototype MidWeight Pants and Vest in Solid Drab Color
18 March 2014
We have decided to expand our payment methods. We’ll now accept precious metals and, as soon as someone requests, bitcoin. Of course we will continue to accept all major credit cards, money orders, paypal, personal checks and cash.
17 March 2014
We will have prototypes of some new items soon: Vest, FullWeight Pants, MidWeight Pants. We are also changing the design a little bit for our Boonie Hat (wider brim, more tapered crown) and Mouton Hat (more Mouton and more Velcro on the chin strap). And we are making a first stab at a completely new type of hat.
19 February 2014: American Made Matters
We’ve just joined an organization dedicated to promoting American-made products. Please check out American Made Matters. Thanks.
14 February 2014: Sugar Season
Compared to a lot of the people we talk to, we don't get all that much of a winter in North Jersey, but everyone hereabouts has had ENOUGH! It’s already been one of the snowiest winters ever, with more snow forecast, and the coldest in a century, so far. Regardless of all that, one of the things Debby and I truly love is the cycle of the seasons. And we get a big kick out of sugaring partly because our maples start flowing in mid-winter, and sugar season lasts until spring. This afternoon, the maples are dishing sweetness for Valentine's Day, despite three or four feet of snow drifts.
10 February 2014: Back from the Shows and THANK YOU to all who visited our booths!!!
Debby and I just arrived home from the SCI Show in Vegas last night. Today Alex is tearing down our booth at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, and he should be back in the office tomorrow. We have a ton of work to do to get caught up, but we’ll get it done. THANK YOU to all who visited our booths at these shows. We spoke with easily over one thousand people, and very few of them had heard of WeatherWool previously. So the exposure was terrific. We got many compliments, ideas, words of encouragement ... and plenty of business too. Several retailers, distributors and magazines are interested in working with us or reviewing/testing our products. This is all great stuff!
29 January 2014: SWAMP FOX!
Spent the morning at The Swamp today. Got into the woods just after first light and backed up against a tree. We had about 3 inches of powder-snow fall last night plus several inches of older snow underneath. Visibility would be excellent once the light was good. Slight wind, temp 10F/-12C. My outfit was a little strange today because I couldn't find my Woolpower Turtleneck, so I wound up wearing a cotton T-Shirt under a cotton shirt. Yes, cotton kills, but I was near home, my family knew where I was, I had a cellphone and I would never be more than a mile from my truck. So I went with the convenience of the garments at hand. I also wore a prototype WeatherWool Vest that I've been playing around with, and my old original proto All-Around Jac. On bottom I wore light Woolpower Longjohns and one of our very first prototype pants. I was plenty warm making like a statue for the first 90 minutes or so I was there. But I could really feel the difference between my arms and my torso, protected by the Vest. I also wore the WeatherWool Mouton Hat, and my head was positively toasty. No question I would have been fine in much colder weather.
I was hoping for some venison, but the only critter I saw of any size was a smallish coyote that appeared only fleetingly. After it was gone I started thinking maybe it could have been a fox, but it seemed too big and too gray, although it showed before the light was really bright.
At around 8:15 or so, I decided to start moving. I'm not much for taking a stand for whitetail. Not sure why, but I much prefer to stillhunt, which to me means sneaking around very slowly and as quietly as possible, and trying to spot critters before they know I'm there. I hadn't gone but 75 yards when I was surprised to find the very fresh track of a big (for the area) running whitetail. I didn't see how the tracks could have been made after I'd taken my stand against the tree – I should definitely have been aware of a running deer. So I figured I must have spooked the deer when I first walked in. Which means the deer would be thoroughly calmed down by now, and maybe I could follow the track and get a shot?
My first surprise was how far the deer, which was alone, ran. It was bounding pretty good for a couple hundred yards. When it did slow down, it didn't meander, it was walking straight. I generally had really good visibility, and tried to keep an eye peeled way out front, and stopped to glass often. But as happens so frequently, I did not see the deer until after I spooked it, and saw a tail bounding away. Well, I stopped looking down and headed straight for where the deer had been, hoping maybe I could cut the distance and then sneak in after the deer calmed down. I doubted it had really made me … I had the wind in my favor. But after going a little further, I saw a second tail bounding off, and when I picked up the tracks again, I was now following three smaller deer and I had to wonder what the heck happened to that single big track I'd been on?
While I stood wondering what was what, I was startled by a red fox running past me only 25 yards to my left. The fox was really zeroed in on something out there, in the same direction the deer had run. Foxes do act strangely at times, but this being the end of January, and, I think, the beginning of the fox breeding season, I had an idea what was going on. I slowed down and very carefully followed the deer tracks, stopping frequently to look for the deer and the tracks with my binos.
The deer were walking, but headed straight for the Rockaway River, and I followed the tracks all the way to the riverbank where they crossed. The Rockaway is a small river, and right now the water was fairly low and slow. The deer probably did not have to swim to reach the other side. But here in The Swamp, crossing the Rockaway is something the deer do frequently, without hesitation, even in winter, and regardless of the water level.
I caught a movement about 100 yards off in a meadow on the other side of the river, and realized it was a red fox. When I put the binos on the fox, it seemed clear to me this fox had just been swimming. Looking down, I could see the fox tracks enter the river at the same spot as the deer tracks. I guess it should not have surprised me, but I did not really picture foxes swimming across the river! The fox began a strange series of moves on a fallen branch at the edge of the meadow. He was climbing on it and rubbing on it and generally giving it much more attention than I ever thought a fox would. Focusing on another moving critter, I saw a second fox streak across the meadow and disappear into the woods. The first fox stood and watched the newcomer, which shortly thereafter ran back out and joined the first fox in making various moves on the fallen branch. Next, the two foxes stood on their hind legs and began to dance. They tapped each other with their front paws, and I think they were also tapping paw to paw, almost like dancers joining hands. They pranced around some on their back legs, face to face. Then dropping back to four feet, one of the foxes began to slowly move away while the other, the male I guess, was pretty interested in the other fox's back end, and was putting his front feet on her back.
I'd never seen anything like this, and felt really lucky to be seeing it! But it got better. A third fox came racing in from the right, and joined up with the other two. The three of them ran into a thicket where I could not see, but it certainly sounded like a short fight broke out. They vocalized briefly, but loudly. Adding to my surprise were two turkeys, running toward the sound of the fox fight. In my experience, turkeys hate to fly, and they even hate to run. But these two birds were really making time as if they were very interested in the fox proceedings. That doesn't make any sense to me, but that seemed to be what was going on.
Losing sight of the foxes and the turkeys, I moved around a bit and busted up some ice. At the sound, the deer I'd been tracking jumped into focus. Evidently they had crossed the river and immediately bedded in some grass and fallen logs where I had been unable to see them. They must have been within 20 or 30 yards of the dancing foxes. I guess they were watching the foxes???!!! Turkeys and deer are interested in fox mating rituals?
The deer did not seem to care much about my presence, which was not the usual whitetail behavior. They stood broadside for a bit, looking at me and looking at the thicket where the foxes had disappeared. I could have taken one or even two easily (and legally). Maybe they were reading my body language and could see I was no longer really hunting? That sounds weird, I know, but hunted whitetails definitely distinguish among human activities ... although at The Swamp they normally regard all people as hunters, all the time. Anyhow, the deer were only 80 yards away, according to my rangefinder binos. I've been told it’s OK to shoot deer in that spot. But I don’t have direct permission, and at that point, frankly, I was more interested in seeing what was going on than I was in hunting. But nothing else happened. The deer moved off, and I didn’t see the foxes or turkeys again.
I was out of time, but the morning was so lovely I decided to stillhunt my way back to my truck. I was happy to see a group of goldeneyes and another group of black ducks on the Rockaway. Neither type of duck is seen very often here in The Swamp, at least by me.
As I tiptoed along, I came to one of the drainage ditches that had been dug here back in the 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers. Unless it is very dry, the ditches normally hold a few feet of water. And often ducks. But with the cold snap we'd been having, the ditches were frozen solid in many places, and it occurred to me that if I didn't bust through the ice, the ditches would afford a really cool path for stillhunting. And they did! The ice had a couple of inches of fresh snow on it, and I could move in almost total silence. Plus, the ditch concealed me ... the land on my right was at waist level. And on my left side, the berm created by the digging came up to my shoulders, so I could see well over the berm, but only my head would be visible to any deer on my left. With a little breeze in my face, this was just perfect!!! Except that I never did see another deer.
However, as I eased along the ditch, I came upon some fresh coyote tracks. And following along in the ditch, in the path of the yote, took me pretty close to the spot where I'd started the morning, and where I thought I'd seen a yote. So it’s likely I actually did see the yote that made the tracks in the ditch.
Altogether, this was a really great morning, and a fine way to end my deer season!! We are very low on deer meat now, BUT we still have plenty of moose and pronghorn from previous years in the deep freezer. I guess we’ll finish those off by early September, when the 2014 deer seasons begin in The Swamp.
Saturday, 18 January 2014
Just back from the show in Dallas. Really good show for WeatherWool ... huge interest in what we are up to. Thank You DSC! These shows are a lot of work and time, and expensive too. But it is important to bring WeatherWool to places where it can be seen and touched, and where new people can learn about us. Now it is time to knock off a ton of work that built up while I was gone! Plus get ready for the SCI Show in Vegas and the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA.
After the show I was treated to a great couple of days at an incredible and very private whitetail ranch in the Free State of McMullen County, Texas. What a place! The ranch sits on gently rolling land grown over with some of the thickest brush going. And the various brushy plants and the prickly pears have serious thorns. It would be completely impossible for a man to walk thru there. It’s so thick even crawling might not be possible. And with all those nasty thorns, you'd better be wearing some serious goggles. It’s amazing the deer and javelina and wild pigs don't get their eyes poked blind. Of course, crawling would put your whole body down at rattlesnake level. The majority of this huge ranch is intensively managed for serious trophy whitetail. But a giant chunk of the land is also left pretty well alone. And even there, the whitetails grow some super antlers because the area has such tremendous genetics and minerals.
Sitting with my hosts reviewing films and photos of their deer and listening to them discuss the condition, age and potential of their bucks was fascinating and a unique experience for me. And I learned a lot which I someday hope to put into use! I hunted two days with the son of the owner, a professional land and wildlife manager. We saw some real giants, and I wish I'd had a camera that could reach out and grab some good photos at longer distances.
The most important part of herd management is to keep the number of deer low enough that the whitetails -- and in fact all the other wildlife that makes the ranch their home -- have plenty of feed and are extremely healthy. In my short visit I saw one group of wild hogs, dozens of javelina, lots of cottontail and some jackrabbits, huge numbers of birds of prey, a coyote, and probably a hundred whitetail. There are also bobcats and Indigo Racer snakes. These snakes have been measured at over 9 feet, and our friends showed us a picture they'd recently taken of a racer eating a rattlesnake. The racers often eat other snakes, and are immune to the venom. I'm something of a snake lover, and would have loved to see a rattlesnake, which I never have ... but of course it’s always good to not have to worry about getting bit. The freezing weather at night kept the rattlers underground all day, even though afternoons were shirtsleeve warm for a few hours.
Each year the owners kill about 35 does and 35 bucks. They do most of their personal hunting with bows, but I was using a rifle. They were getting almost to their management goals, but I was given the privilege of knocking down what is called a ‘management buck’, a deer that is clearly not going to grow serious antlers. The deer I shot was 3-1/2 years old, and a really nice buck anywhere, but judged not only too small, but too ornery to keep in the herd. We watched this deer for about a half-hour, and he walked stiff-legged, with ears laid back, the whole time. The rack will eventually have a home here in my office, and the meat will be donated. Our hosts use quite a bit of their venison themselves (as in a fantastic venison stew!), and the rest is donated.
The buck’s live weight was about 145 pounds -- after the rut. Bucks expend a huge amount of energy during the mating season, particularly in areas like this ranch, where the number of bucks and does is roughly equal. He would have weighed 30 pounds more several weeks earlier.
It was also fun for me to see how our LYNX™ pattern blended into the Texas winter brush. There are some evergreen plants, like the ones in the pictures above and below, but mostly at this time of year the leaves are down, the grasses are brown and LYNX pattern was just about perfect. In the picture below, I'm wearing blue jeans and a green shirt, and the camera is only about 10 yards from me. If I was seriously trying to hide, wearing LYNX head to toe and covering my face and hands, even at ten yards I would have been pretty much invisible.
Many Thanks to our Hosts for some Big-Time Texas Hospitality!!!
Lynx Pattern Disappears in the Brush of South Texas
Monday, 6 January 2014
We’re getting geared up for the Dallas Safari Club Show opening on Thursday! Lots of last-minute sort of things to do. We’ll be in Booth 1135 and please visit!!
Friday, 3 January 2014. A GREAT Reason to Wear Wool!
We’ve had some unusually cold weather here lately. Plus we had cold-weather snow, which is weird. Not really serious cold, but cold for Jersey. We got about 8 inches (20 cm) of snow on Thursday night, and the temperature was about 10F/-12C. Usually we wouldn't get more than a dusting at that temperature. Significant snow here almost always, it seems to me, happens when the temp is a little above freezing, and the air is moist and heavy and still. Thursday night was dry and windy. Friday afternoon was sunny and with the clear sky, it was easy to see Friday night would be colder than Thursday night. So I thought the whitetails might be moving, and I grabbed my muzzleloader and headed off to The Swamp. I cut some fresh tracks right off, and followed them. Got within about 50 yards of the bedded deer, but I didn't know that until the wind shifted and they jumped up and ran off. By the way they moved, I was pretty sure they did not really know where I was, and thought it likely they'd stop before they ran out of sight. And they did stop. Twice actually, and well in range of my rifle. But in typical whitetail fashion, they stopped where they were screened by brush. In my book, there is no such thing as a ‘brush gun’. It doesn't take much to deflect a bullet, so I held my fire. What was really interesting happened a little later.
I stillhunted (Hereabouts, the term stillhunting means moving very slowly, trying to sneak undetected within lethal range of a quarry that you have not seen, but expect to be nearby) another 90 minutes or so, and did not cut another fresh track. While walking across what I thought was an iced-over and snow-covered puddle, I discovered the hard way it was actually a small ditch. I crashed thru the ice into knee-deep water, and felt the cold water spill in over the top of my boots. I just about always hunt in my ancient pair of Maine Guide Boots from Bean. I like the thin sole for stillhunting because I can feel sticks and hopefully get off them before they snap. But these boots are very light and totally uninsulated. If I want any protection at all from the cold, it has to come from my socks. So I was wearing a pair of 600 gram Woolpower socks. Obviously we are wool believers, and we love the Woolpower because, as far as I know, Woolpower is the only company making base layers and socks of merino wool in a terry-cloth weave, which is just THE BEST. [NOTE: On 14 June 2021, we shut down AlexOutdoors.] Our sister company, AlexOutdoors, sells Woolpower, and will continue to do so. Woolpower is the only cold-weather base layer we recommend under WeatherWool. I jumped out of the water pretty quick. At 15F/-9C, it was not good to have water in my boots. I figured I'd just hustle the 800 yards back to my truck, and call it a day. But after a couple hundred yards, I was surprised to find I'd subconsciously slipped back into stillhunting, and was more surprised to reflect my feet no longer felt cold or wet!! That’s a great illustration of the magic of wool. If I'd been wearing cotton or synthetic socks, it would have been completely different.