Saturday, December 31, 2016

Off-Grid homestead in the Middle East.

This is a look at a joint run Israeli-Palestinian homestead project in the West Bank that we recently visited while on assignment. / The site is still in development but presently contains a greenhouse, well, fruit trees, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, solar power, a garden, kitchen, outhouse, and plenty of helping hands.

Friday, December 30, 2016

LeverAxe 2 : quick demo.

Watch how effortlessly the LeverAxe 2 kicks straight grain wood apart. I still use my trusty 20lb maul for cross grain woods (like hickory); but why not speed up the process on these lighter logs?

=WATCH and READ the full video review of this product here: LEVERAXE 2 REVIEW

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How to make beverage coasters from tree limbs.

Here's a quick demo video showing the start to finish on some simple woodcraft you can make from the tops of downed trees. // Grains used in this video: Black Cherry, Black Locust, Red Maple.

::={SAFETY NOTE: Accidents happen. One "should" always ensure the safety mechanisms/guards of the machinery & tools they use; and always wear protective safety gear.

Felling a back-leaning tree with wedges.

Contrary to my prediction that the tree was going to fall the way it was leaning (downhill); my 92 yr old Grandfather schooled me on how to force it to fall uphill. Note for the armchair experts: While the hammer strikes may appear weak, notice how the soundwave concussion wobbles the camera from a distance. I know how to properly swing a maul. Given the short 16" handle and slope that I was standing against, I used momentum swings instead of direct blows. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Spiced Pumpkin Buckwheat Cookies.

An Original Work'n Man's Life recipe!
Using a blend of both healthy and robust ingredients, these cookies are perfect for snacking on those brisk Autumn days while you're out cutting firewood. This is my own original recipe that I arrived at through some minor trial & error - and with an aim at keeping my (reactive hypo) blood sugar in check. Takes about 20-30 minutes total time from start to finish! 

~{:Spiced Pumpkin Buckwheat Cookies::

- 1 1/4 cup whole buckwheat flour
- 1/4 cup ground ginger
- 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
- 2 tblspn ground cinnamon
- dash of ground nutmeg
- dash of ground sea salt
- dash of baking soda
(mix these dry ingredients in a bowl)

-1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 cup pure pumpkin purée (blended up pre-cooked pumpkin flesh)
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt

(mix these in a bowl, then add to the dry ingredients and mix)

Add more buckwheat flour is the dough is too sticky.
Coat a baking sheet with safflower, hazelnut, or coconut oil.

Bake at 350F for 10 minutes (if you like chewy) or 14 minutes (if you like crispy).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How this 92 yr old Navy Vet spends his evenings...

Granddad began sketching to pass the time back during WWII while serving aboard the USS Doneff.
Since then, he's upgraded his medium. Don't let age slow you down!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stump Art.

Summer's never been a good season for me in keeping up with my oil paintings. There's always too much that needs to get done, and the longer days are quickly filled with a list of chores that take from sunrise to sunset to accomplish. / I have however stumbled upon (literally) a new avenue for my artistic ambitions during this season: Stump Art.

A few weeks ago while regrading one of our logging trails, I bumped into this old locust stump. It was so unique - with 3 sandstones embedded - that I couldn't pass it up.

With a little applied effort and some freshly seasoned black cherry, it transformed into the corner table that you see here:

And with that, my newfound creativity outlet was formed. The latest piece is a prayer journal stand that I made from another locust stump along the same forest trail. This one features a small black cherry slab for a journal to sit on; and a handmade metal & stained glass hanging lantern (similar to the hanging tree lantern in many of my oil paintings).

Oil-Painting my trademark hanging lantern in tree. 

Here's a quick little video showing the transformation in action:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reaching Out.

Check out my wife Leisha's jewelry, antique, & relic site!  Many of the items featured include REAL historical relics from the many ancient lands that we travel to.

100% of all proceeds always goes to support ministries and humanitarian missions in conflict regions around the world.  to buy now. All items come with free shipping and an informational pamphlet of what your purchases support.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ancient Native American stone turtle effigies - throughout our woods.

Stone effigies are among the numerous markers left by the inhabitants of our continent's distant past.

Here where we are (central ‪#‎Pennsylvania‬), there are several of these stone "turtle" effigies - enduring through the lapse time. The exact tribe who sculpted these is undetermined; but it is historically recorded that major native trails went right through these woods. They remain protected today so that they may continue as reminders for the future generations - of the people long before us, and of their respect for the earth we are all created from.

(The [A-key cedar] flute in this video was crafted by High Spirits Flutes.)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Power Box: Human Powered generator by K-TOR

Years ago during my quest for viable off-grid & emergency power sources, I came upon a bicycle mounted electric generator. I don’t recall the company that was marketing it at that time; but I remember it clearly resembling the structure of an exercise bike with an alternator of sorts geared in. The kit included the bike, generator, and an optional deep cycle battery/jump pack to keep charged with it. In all it ran around $600 (which even today is a sizable investment for most average folks – including myself). / While tempting at that time, I declined to make the purchase and went back to intensive research on solar cells, wind turbines, and other experimental power sources that each lacked that desired confidence in having electricity when it counts.

Fast forward to now…my revived search for a reliable human-powered generator has led me to K-TOR. An all-American company, K-TOR specializes in pure quality human-powered generators. Having already tested and added their Pocket Socket 2 to my go-everywhere survival kit, I decided to give their Power Box a tryout as well.

Quick Specs:

-Size: 12 x 5.5 x 3.5 inches
-Weight: 4lbs 11ounces
-Output: 120v DC up to 20 watts


-Design: Right off out of the box, this generator surprised me with its solid & study – yet lightweight design. (Just in the past 2 month’s testing alone, I’ve put it through periods of intense heat, rain, rugged terrain, unprotected exposure to the elements, a topple down the stairs, plus hours of pedaling) It folds easily in a matter of seconds and can conveniently fit in a backpack, utility box, carry-on luggage, or virtually any mobile space in which one might want its capability standing by. The Power Box can be placed on the ground and used freely, or it can be screwed down to a solid surface if designed in a more permanent station.

-Versatility: The Power Box includes a universal plug outlet which can accommodate most standard international plug types. (As a frequent oversees traveler, I much look forward to using this on upcoming trips when we’re in places where electricity is intermittent at best!) Able to power up to 20 watts, one can attach a multi-plug outlet adapter and charge (or power) a variety of DC devices all at once. With an optional 12V charger, the Power Box can also be used to charge deep cycle batteries to store for later use. COMBINE these with an AC convertor – one can power an even larger variety of devices.

-Calories to Current: The Power Box facilitates the Holy Grail of sustainable energy – the human body! By allowing any able-bodied person to literally turn their calories into current, one never needs to worry about “not” having power available in the event of emergencies, disasters, or necessity. The Power Box provides not only that peace of mind, but also an advantageous opportunity to transform that extra bowl of ice-cream into juice that can be stored in a battery for later use!

Portable Human-Power Station:

I combined the Power Box along with a 12v charger, Schumacher 410watt AC convertor, 65ah deep cycle universal battery, and carrying case to create a portable power station. Using solely the Power Box to provide the charge to the battery (which then maintained the charge to the AC convertor), I was able to play both my electric guitar and violin through my 45 watt Marshall amp in isolated, off-grid settings. After four hours of playing & pedaling in the sun, rain, wind, rocky cliffs, coast, forests - the battery still held enough charge to juice the amp.


In addition to use in tangent with a battery and AC convertor, I also performed a calorie-to-current workout test with multiple DC devices at once (using a standard multi-outlet adapter). Directly powering four devices as well as running a charger to the deep cycle battery, I confirmed to myself the long awaited excitement of having a pedal unit like this in our off-grid cabin.

In regards to the Power Box as an investment of emergency preparedness, survival gear, and an off-gridpower alternative – this unit satisfies and exceeds my expectations. There's no other product comparison that I'm aware of that can touch the portability, solid construction, and capability of this unit as a human-powered (truly) green energy generator.

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a used sample Power Box from K-TOR for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of K-TOR. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Finishing up our off-grid Art Studio

The loft & window seat in our art studio/library/music-room is complete. Seat and stand are rough cut cherry. Loft (ceiling from the seat) is red oak. Shelves & trim are black walnut.

There certainly is that rewarding self-satisfaction that comes with building from your own land and own 2 hands (well... 4 hands since Leisha helps). All the wood (minus the walnut) was harvested from the property over the past few years. Never let good lumber go to waste!  :)

Now to work on the porch and deck.....

Friday, May 27, 2016

Remembering Why.

"It’s not the war we won, but the reason why we fought to win it.”
-Shearer, DE-49 Doneff. ’43-45

Spending evenings with my 92 yr old grandfather is something I frequently look forward to. I never know precisely what his topic of discussion will be from day to day, but I usually anticipate a dialogue with components of both historical nostalgia and spirited reflections. Granddad isn’t one to disappoint when it comes to invigorating conversation. With a lifetime full of experiences as a farmer, sailor, carpenter, minister, artist, traveler, husband, father, and grandfather - any particular wisdom or opinion comes attached with a combination of perspectives from these roles.

It’s with that in mind that I share a little here about some of his reflections on his service in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War.

I asked him how and why he entered the military to begin with. In his words, “Simple. There was never any question in my mind. I enlisted for one reason only: Hitler had to be stopped. What the German people were doing was wrong and they had to be stopped.” [Coming from a strong German-American background.] “I knew very well that I might even be fighting some of my own flesh and blood over there.” Fresh out of high school and right off his family’s farm in York, Pennsylvania, he went to the local army recruiting office to enlist. “I went and joined the Army and was in there for two weeks. Then they took me up to Harrisburg and said they wanted me in the Navy because of my grades in chemistry, algebra and physics.” Granddad was then transferred and assigned aboard a destroyer escort, the DE-49 Doneff, where he served for the next two years until the war ended.

Within granddad’s recollections of memorable occasions in the Pacific, kamikaze encounters, and (now knowing) that they secretly escorted the atomic bomb aboard the USS Indianapolis – is a somber undertone that always elicits his moral conclusion: “It’s not the war we won, but the reason why we fought to win it.” Referring to the atrocities having been done by Germany and Japan at the time, it was never about being a victor in an arena of world powers, or even about safeguarding ourselves from potential ruin. It was about ‘good’ not idly standing by while evil was being committed.

Lately he’s been troubled at today’s age and the direction of our society’s mainstream voice. He brings up frequently in conversation (after watching the news) – that everyone keeps touting “make America great again!”, but without an understanding of truth as to what made America great. To him the greatness of our nation isn’t about our military might, or industrial strength, or nationalistic pride. He remarks, “Those are the mark of every Adolf Hitler in history and the people who arrogantly rallied behind them.” What made us great was the moral good that once was taught and revered – from men & women who died to free slaves, starved when they could have stolen, sacrificed for the sake of strangers, and those who built the future with sweat, blood and tears. Greatness isn’t the pride of the winning team having victory over an opponent. “What we should be remembering are the reasons that left us with no choice but to fight.”

In being grateful for the risks taken by all who have served and who have passed on, whatever their motives, may we also truly honor their sacrifice by living our present in the service of what is right.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Off-grid building construction : Music & Art Library

Last spring we started the construction of another out-building to our little Valkenstein village. This building is to be a simple art studio for my paintings, and to house a small library for Leisha. The internal construction of the room is designed to reverb sound in such a way that will slightly amplify our stringed instruments (and maybe a piano if we ever add on a little space for it). 

The internal construction of the room is designed to reverb sound in such a way that will slightly amplify our stringed instruments (and maybe a piano if we ever add on a little space for it). 
Stone foundation with locust posts. 

Leisha putting the roof on. 

Rubber shingles

The main center of the room has enough open space to house a guitar, fiddle, mandolin and so forth - with a small table and window seat facing the sunrise and opposing mountain view. There are two out wings from the main room, one for my art supplies and painting table, and the other is for bookshelves and a varied collection of reading materials.  

We'll be adding a front porch and back deck for playing the instruments outside when desired.

It's taken a year to get this structure complete because of other demands on our work schedules. We've only been working on this one day per week since last spring. I will be posting photos of the inside once completed (by July this year). 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


In this short how-to video clip, we show how we make paneling from white pine in quick & easy steps.  Granddad also shows how he wires up a non-grounded electrical cord to a damaged router, and also why it's good that he's been drinking whole milk for the past 90+ years!

They don't build Granddads like this anymore. ;)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to make decorative oil candles.

In just a few easy steps, you can have yourself a decorate oil candle that will burn for hours or even days (depending on volume of oil and burning length of wick).  These types of candles can be scented by a few drops of whatever essential oil you might like to add; or they can be naturally scented with organic flowers or plants (e.g. roses, lilacs, pine cones/needles...etc).

WATCH the video below to see Leisha demonstrate. 

Items needed: 

- clean vegetable oil
- glass jar
- floating wicks (we picked up a 50-pack for about $3)
- essential oil drops for scent (optional)
- optional scented organic matter (pine cones, flower petals..etc)


1. Add optional organic or decorative material (like glass rocks).
2. Fill the jar or glass container 6/8 way with oil.
3. Adjust the floating wick so that 1/4 of it is above the floating disc (or a much or little wick as you want).
4. Place the floating wick in the oil and then light.

A safer version of this candle can be made by filling the jar most of the way with water and then adding a little oil on top. The wick will extinguish itself once the oil burns off. You should always ensure a safe margin of oil space above any organic material - to prevent it from catching fire as the wick burns.

NEVER leave an oil candle unattended or unsupervised!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to make Maple Syrup

Just a brief little video from start to finish on finding a sugar or red maple for tapping, what I collect the sap in, and how I boil it down. Here in Pennsylvania, the red maples make a more golden coloured syrup than our neighbors up north in Vermont.

1 quart Sugar & Red maple syrup mix
Sugar Maple ratio = 40:1
Red Maple    ratio = 60:1

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

GRAYL Ultralight : "Holy Grail" of portable water purifiers!

Exactly one year ago to this day, I was being offered a humble (yet dignified) glass of water from the head of a rural household in the literal middle of Pakistan. While I had gone prepared with a small portable UV type water sterilizer, I opted to not disrespect the honorary gesture and leave my magic wand hidden in my backpack and straight-up drink the beverage that was offered me. I did this … knowing what was sure to be in the water (as it contained the same odor as the raw sewage water which flowed in open trenches around the modest brick & mud houses).


Fortunately for me and my wife, that small prayer we prayed right before drinking this beverage seemed to suffice in our not taking ill to whatever microscopic forces infested the water.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that all too many learn in a most painstaking way when traveling abroad – or even when drinking from a seemingly “crystal clear” mountain stream.

While there have long been many options available for the adventuring traveler, finding the “holy grail” of portable water purifiers has certainly proven a quest. I'm not one for chemical treatments or other ways of adulterating a drink to make it “acceptable”; and survival straws are great & all – but still just don't quite give one that full bout of confidence. Portable UV purifiers like the SteriPen are what I've used most frequently in my overseas journeys; but they only sterilize the water - without filtering it of contaminants such as heavy metals, dangerous particles, sediment and other potentially hazardous contaminants. They also rely on the need for a power source for recharging, and contain fragile lamps that -if broken- can leave you defenseless. 

And that's why there's the GRAYL. <<< (appropriately named)

GRAYL Ultralight

Quick Specs:
- purifies & filters
- 16 oz capacity
- 300 uses per filter (40Gal / 150L)
- weight: 10.9 oz (empty)

Purification AND Filtration: 

-Removes: 99.9999% of viruses (e.g. rotavirus, norovirus, hepatitis A)
-Removes: 99.9999% of bacteria (e.g. e.coli, salmonella, cholera)
-Removes: 99.999% of protozoan cysts (e.g. giardia, cryptosporidium)
-Filters particulates (e.g. sand, silt, sediment), chemicals (e.g. chlorine, iodine), and heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic).
-Improves water flavor, odor and clarity.


In my experience with survival straws, uv wands, make-shift solar stills, and filtering water through my own sock – it doesn't get any easier than the Grayl. The Ultralight is used in a quick 3-step process: FILL :: PRESS :: DRINK

That's it. No complicated nonsense. Just one press, and drink.
I thought it too good to be true myself... so I gave it a try on some spring water that flowed through 200 acres of appalachia mountain forest, through a pond, and down a waterfall before entering my GRAYL.

Final thoughts:
After repetitive use of the Ultralight for drinking our pond and creek water – I can firmly attest that despite all the foreign matter of animal droppings and contaminants, that this Grayl provided a clean drink every time. Furthermore, it's light weight construction and size makes it ideal for fitting in or clipping onto my backpack.

What I'm really looking forward to is it's use in upcoming travels, both domestically and abroad. Without any fragile parts, batteries, or chemicals involved, it's certainly a save for passing through airport security as well as other checkpoints; and it'll survive a tumble or two when things get sketchy. Additionally, there's no comparison for the peace of mind that comes with not having to debate between dehydration or filtering your drinking water through an old dirty sock!

Learn more about this product direct from the inventors!

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a sample Grayl Ultralight from Grayl for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of Grayl. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Human-powered Electricity with the Power Socket 2.

Off-grid power has long been a subject of interest for myself and other likeminded individuals who prefer to best prepare for worst-case-scenarios. In my researching of power alternatives for both off-grid living and off-grid traveling, I gained a fascination for the concept of human-powered generators.

Years ago, I tried a few hand crank power models that were available at the time – and found all of them to be relatively useless, cheap, and outright impractical for a real life application. I was however intrigued at the concept of a DIY bicycle powered generator, but never invested the time or $ into building one myself. // Well here it is almost a decade later, and I've finally tried and tested a human-powered generator worth writing home (or blogging) about ::

Quick Specs:

-size: 2.5'' x 2.25'' x 6.875''
-weight: 15 oz
-output: 10watts at 120volts


The Pocket Socket 2 provides an experience that can be expected when using a “human-powered” generator. You will work for your electrical gain; however, unlike other inferior models out there – you will be able to reap the fruits of your labor with K-Tor. I found that keeping a good momentum is very important in utilizing this product for the desired efficiency. You don't want to be starting and stopping a lot (but you don't want to kill yourself either). Speaking as a physically fit person, 5 continuous minutes of cranking the Pocket Socket 2 did cause me to break a slight sweat and take some deeper breathes.

VIDEO CORRECTION:   I mistakingly was calling this device a "Power Socket" instead of it's true name: POCKET SOCKET.  Please forgive my mishap as you watch the following video review! 

Items I've Tested:

-iPhone 5c
(note: this phone charges at 1% per 2.75min when plugged into a wall outlet)
(charged 1% per 3.25min at my cranking momentum plugged into Pocket Socket 2)

-RCA Cambio Netbook Tablet
-SteriPen Ultra
-USB Battery Power Bank
-Handheld Spotlight (I hold the light, the wife cranks ;)
-BaoFeng uv3-mark ii dual band transceiver
-Cobra 2-way radios
-Cobra 19DX IV CB radio

Off-Grid & Survival uses:

The main appeal of this product for me is it's usefulness in places (and times) where power might now be readily available. My wife and I travel frequently to places around the world where we can't always access electricity; and while we do carry some portable solar USB battery banks with us, even those can deplete and not be ready when needed. The Pocket Socket 2 affords one the option to turn your own calories into electricity when you need it most. Whether it's at home during a lengthy power outage or storm, or while backpacking for a week in the wilderness, or while traveling oversees, or even to keep in the emergency kit in the trunk of the car – this product is worth its weight (15 oz) in investment.

Use off-grid anywhere in the world. 

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a sample PocketSocket 2 from K-Tor for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of K-Tor. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

SteriPen Ultra - Review & Demonstration

Sanitary drinking water is often an under-appreciated necessity that many of us take for granted. If you’re use to having well water, or a fresh spring nearby – you probably never need to consider any measures to purify what you drink from day to day. But if your future plans include traveling to other countries, going on a weekend wilderness hike, or even going to visit your in-laws – it may be wise to consider some potential ways to safeguard your gut from foreign matters of bacteria, viruses, and animal droppings.

This is something my wife and I take into consideration when traveling to areas of the world where sanitary drinking water isn't readily available. And while there were times when we simply said a prayer and acted on faith without any precautions (as we do when offered a customary beverage when entering into someone's home) – we were relieved to have a way to sterilize what water we drank while on our own.

To sanitize water, you can boil it, treat it, distill it, and filter it; however, you might not be able to fit or smuggle all the necessary tools into your backpack. Of course even if you are prepared, you should always expect the unexpected. That's why we carry the SteriPen UV Water Purifier with us.

The SteriPen Ultra is a newer, updated design to some of the previous models that we've used.

Quick Specs:

-kills 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa in water
-treats 50 liters of water per full charge
-treats in as little as 48 seconds
-usb rechargeable
-8000 treatments per lamp life


The SteriPen Ultra is very simple to use. Simply press the on button of your charged unit, and place the bulb in your 1 liter water container and stir. The indicator display on the SteriPen will alert you of the status of the treatment, and the lamp will automatically shut off once finished. A typical treatment takes anywhere from 48-90 seconds depending on clarity and volume of the water. As shown in our video demonstration, the display will also alert you as to the battery life and lamp life of the SteriPen.

Replacement Pledge from :
After purchase from an authorized reseller, register your SteriPEN at Reach the lamp life limit (8,000 treatments) and we’ll replace it with a new SteriPEN! 

After Thoughts:

As stated above, we've used two SteriPen UV lamps for years in both our domestic and international travels. We've even drank water from known hazardous sources (advised against us by the locals) and never fell ill!

However, one should be cautious as to handle the SteriPen's bulb with care and to put the protective cap back on once finished. You should also be mindful of the container that you use – and if you are dipping it into an unclean water source (like I did in the video demonstration) to pour that into a clean container before treating OR to clean the rim of the container before consuming. Common sense and vigilance always apply when safeguarding your health! The SteriPen Ultra will indeed do what it promises, but it will not filter sediment or particles from the water that you sterilize.

It is recommended to use the SteriPen along with a filter bottle if the water contains possible contaminants.

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a sample SteriPen Ultra from SteriPen for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of SteriPen. 

Oscar Schmidt 6-String Banjo Review

 A 6-string banjo allows a guitar player (who may lack the time or discipline to roll with a 5-string) the means to produce that envied mountain sound. This video is a brief little demonstration of the 6-string banjo I purchased some years back: the Oscar Schmidt OB6.

This banjo can be tuned standard guitar tuning (EADGBE), and can be strummed & plucked like a guitar - or you can use finger picks if you wanna tune it open and play with rolls.

Monday, February 8, 2016

PowerPot V : Review and Demo

Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to convert wood-stove or campfire heat into electricity for phones or other USB appliances? We thought so! Our research on thermoelectric generators (TEG's) led us to a few available products in the online market, including the BioLite -and a few other slapped-together peltier module units. Initially, the BioLite seemed like a neat idea, but what about for indoor use too? After this previous blizzard knocked the power out at our main cabin, the novelty of a TEG seemed to transform into something more practical. And that's exactly where I'm headed....

Our search led us to the PowerPot V, made by PowerPractical.

Simply stated, the PowerPot V (when filled with cold water) generates 5V of up to 5W at 1A electricity using heat from a stove, campfire, or any significant heat source. (great for charging phones, mp3 players, usb battery banks, led lights, and other usb powered devices)

Quick Specs:

-Constructed of hard anodized aluminum
-Lid/bowl included
-1.2 Liter filling capacity
-capable of up to 5W /1A power output
-heat resistant USB output adapter & cable
-LED charge indicator gauge
-carrying bag included


The PowerPot uses the temperature differential between cold fluid and a heat source to generate electricity. As we confirmed during our use of this product, the colder the liquid and the hotter the fire (or greater difference between the cold and heat) – the more charge is generated. The PowerPot charge controller will fluctuate between 1W and 5W of power depending on this temperature difference. We've been using snow and cold stream water so far, and both those seem to work best for us (usually around 3W).

The included instructions provided a basis of information as to how to properly use and operate this device for maximum efficiency. A more thorough explanation “how” thermoelectric generators work can be read at this page on Power Practicals website:

Because the difference between hot & cold temperature is required for operation, the water in the PowerPot needs to be replaced with fresh cool water after it comes close to boiling.

Devices plugged:

-my iPhone 4s
-my RCA Cambio hybrid tablet (which can charge via micro-usb)
-my wife's iPhone 5s
-a usb-powered fan
-a usb battery bank

Xtreme Elements Test: ~Read on below! 

Precautions and Xtreme usage:

As shown in our demonstration video, the PowerPot will generate electricity fast when used according to the manufacturer's operating instructions. The PowerPot can be used on virtually any heat source, but should not be engulfed in flames. While the unit and cords are “heat-resistant” they are not fireproof. The PowerPot also needs to be handled with care as to not damage its internal components from temperature shock after use. This means allowing a proper “cool-down” period after removing from the heat source.

With that noted, we opted to break the rules and see what this unit can really handle! ;)
Against the manufacturer's recommendation, we made ourselves a little direct flame campfire out in the snow. We engulfed the PowerPot V in flames while feeding it fresh snow. Immediately upon setting the snow-filled pot on the flames – we had 3W of power to my iPhone. I continued this Xtreme element test for about 20 minutes, feeding the pot with fresh snow when the charge would drop to 2W – and mindlessly removing the pot from the flame and setting it on an ice cold rock >>>

Besides some intense soot buildup on the bottom of the pot unit, everything remained functional (however, I have no way of knowing how much -if any- damage I may have incurred on the internal components of the PowerPot by abusing it like this).

After Thoughts:

The PowerPot V is precisely what I had hoped it to be for being able to take heat from my wood stove and generate a charge for my USB devices. While some might be offset by the price (direct from PowerPractical at $99), it certainly is a practical tool to have handy for these winter weather power outages, as well as a way to keep one's usb devices charged when off the grid or while camping. And after this recent blizzard that left 3ft of snow and regional blackouts in our area, I'm glad to have this PowerPot standing by.

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a sample PowerPot V from Power Practical for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of Power Practical.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to restore a cast iron skillet.

Ole' brother Jason shows us here how to restore a rusty cast iron skillet.
Look's easy!

Black Walnut tree syrup!

Did you know that Black Walnut trees can be tapped, and YES - used to make delicious syrup?
While the yield isn't as impressive as the beloved Sugar Maple, the sap of a Black Walnut can be just as rewarding an effort to harvest & introduce into your culinary endeavors.

This step-by-step instructional can help get you on your way to tapping your own Black Walnut trees!    (click the photo below!)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tree tapping for syrup.

With Spring being only a few months away here in the N.East, it's time to start thinking of what trees to tap. We all know about sugar and red maples being our prime desire for some delicious flapjack topping; but what about those other trees that also have a liquid treasure to yield?

Here's a good article about 22 trees that can be tapped.

>>> 22 Trees that can be tapped for syrup!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Off-Grid Security & Surveillance

Security is the #1 concern for many of us who put our time, effort and attention into our secluded projects. Whether it’s our off-grid homestead, or recreational cabin, weekend getaway, private campsite, or even our backwoods toolshed – many of us face that lingering fear of one day coming to our site to find the windows smashed in and our furnishings gone. And since our facilities are without a consistent power source, we lack an “affordable” way to keep an eye on what’s happening when we’re around.

 This was a concern for us for years, until the day we came up to our cabin to find the locks on the doors broken and the place ransacked. Now, something’s been done.

Relatively affordable, easy to maintain, easy to conceal, and easy on batteries – is the Moultrie M-880 Game Camera. 

-cheap (for a good game camera)
-small & easy to conceal 
-holds up well against the elements
-takes standard SD card 
-good battery life (we change ours twice per year)

 -Nighttime Infrared can give the camera’s presence away. 
 (We covered ours with electrical tape and use landscape lighting to aid in night photos) 
-Sensitive to leaf/wind movements (like branches) 
-not black-bear tamper proof! 

We purchased and installed 3 of these M-880’s around our main site. This model is small enough to give you some wiggle-room for creativity in its concealment. We buried two into the surrounding landscape (nearly invisible unless you know what to look for) and one is hidden within one of the several massive sandstone piles (in the natural landscape). 

While these cameras are fully capable of taking decent video (with audio) recordings; we have ours set to 3 photos (5 seconds apart) for every 30 seconds of activity detected. This present setting allows our cameras to record about 3 months at a time on the 16GB SD cards – without needing cleaned off every week. Otherwise, we only check and clear the cards when we notice that someone’s been on the property (a few hidden trip wires we have set). 

Some photos from one of my 3 hidden cameras of the past 2 years: (note, the time-stamps on most of these were in reverse - A.M. instead of P.M.)


Neighbors (un-beknownst to us)



Grandpa & Uncle

( SPOTTED! ... the cam has since been re-hidden)

Mama bear
bob cat

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Vipukirves Leveraxe 2 : Reviewed by Work'n Man's Life

So we just got in this new sample axe, the Leveraxe (2nd model) by Vipukirves.

Per the informative descriptions of this axe on at the manufacturer's website, this product is supposed to be able to almost effortlessly crack a log apart.

Leveraxe Models 2 & 1 (left to right)


Right out of the box, this axe stands apart from any other I've ever held. First thing I noticed was how incredibly light it is! Weighing in at a meek 4.8 lbs, this birch handled splitter doesn't "feel" like something that could do all that much to the maple and locust we had standing by.

Then there's the design of the axe head itself: claw-shaped hard stainless steel, with a slightly blunted edge. Again, leaving a little doubt in my assumption as to whether or not it would hold up against what I was about to put it through. Though the manufacturer states that the "Leveraxe is based on a lever mechanism and rotation action. The operational principle of the Leveraxe is totally different from the traditional axe. The axe head is attached to the handle from the side and not through the center. This results in the centre of the gravity of the axe head being to one side of the center line of strike."  


The principle method of the axe is in the rotation of its head as it bears down onto the log, thus diverting the downward force into a sideways one. The user is instructed to "loosen" their grip on the handle at the moment of impact, so as to allow the head to do its thing (instead of trying to drive the head into the wood). The user should also aim slightly off center of the log, again to allow the sideward rotation to "kick" the split piece out.

Even in the enclosed instructions, the use of a tire (or other harnessing barrier such as a chain or bungie chords) is recommended to keep the pieces in place while the user continues the desired splitting.  For our demonstration however, I opted to forego the barrier - as to allow the pieces to fly where they may and see just how far they may fly.  ;)

***  No Work'n Man's Wife was harmed in the demonstration of this product!  ***


As you can see in our video demonstration, we tested this axe (on film) on a variety of sizes and pieces of both seasoned & wet maple and locust logs. We selected these for their density, and popularity around these parts as typical firewood.

At first swing, it was difficult to not regard this axe like the 8lb chopping maul that I'm use to swinging over my head! Its unbelievably light weight just makes it "seem" incapable of the task at hand. .... That being said; I am IMPRESSED at how effortlessly it tore these logs apart!

There were a few chops in which I ended up embedding the axehead into the wood. All of these were only on wet wood, and (as my brother pointed out) I was having a difficult time letting myself "loosen the grip" on the birch handle as the axe came down. It's certainly counterintuitive when you're use to holding a firm grip on those weighted mauls - to now telling yourself to 'take it easy.' But sure enough, loosening the grip makes for an instant split each time.


Later Follow-up with seasoned ash:

For more information about the Leveraxe product, you can visit the manufacturer's website: 

Disclosure: Work'n Man's Life received a sample LeverAxe 2 from Vipukirves for this review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and have in no way been influenced by or reflect those of Vipukirves.