Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Making a Ghillie Hat

There IS a guy in a Ghillie suit in this picture.
If you have a hide for your body, a hood's all you need.

If you’re thinking of taking up wildlife photography, hunting, paintball or bird-watching, you’re going to need an easy method of camouflage. Oh, sure you can buy camouflage clothes down at Wal-Mart or a sporting goods place. Some even carry special patterns designed to match the local flora.  A little camo face paint and you’ll be hard to see for sure. For total concealment, however, nothing beats a Ghillie suit.

The Ghillie suit, developed by military snipers as a portable form of concealment, helps you blend indistinguishably into the terrain.  Ghillie suits are basically net covered outfits with strips of rope and rag tied to the nets. You’re basically dressing up like a big bush.

Ghillie suits aren’t the most pleasant of outfits to wear. They’re heavy, bulky and complicated to put on.  If you’re looking for a little extra to dress up your hiding place, a Ghillie hat might be the best thing for you.  Here’s how to make one.


Get a large floppy canvas hat and a circle of nylon or poly blend netting about six feet across and a natural Earth tone color.  Get a large needle and some clear or green monofilament fishing line. You’ll also need a little clear glue or hot glue. You’ll need strips of twine, jute and earth colored cloth so that you have a mixture of textures and thicknesses. Strips of an old camouflaged shirt work great for the cloth strips.

Assembling the Parts

  1. Cut the nylon netting so that it covers the hat and hangs down one to three feet over the edge of the hat brim as far as you wish.
  2. Lay the netting over the crown of the hat so the edges stick out. Add a touch of glue wherever the net touches the edge of the brim or the crown of the hat.
  3. Once the glue sets, stitch the net at all the glue points. To secure the net to the hat.
  4. Start at the outside edges of the net along what will be the bottom of the net.  Tie the strips of cloth, rope and twine along the first row of netting along the outside.
  5. Keep tying around the base, working your way up row by row. Alternate the cloth strips with twine and small bits of rope. The added upper layers will lay on top of the lower layers like a hay pile or brush heap.
  6. Use simple knots so you can untie them if you need to change the texture or colors in order to adapt your hat to different types of terrain.
  7. Work your way to the top of the net, adding layers to give the hat/hood a shaggy appearance.
  8. Spread out the ties that will be in front of your face to make it easier for you to see through the hood. You want enough strips to keep your face concealed without blocking your vision.  Remember you will be walking around in this rig on rough terrain. You need to see well enough that you won’t fall off a cliff or something.
  9. When you’re done, set the hat on a stick with the rags and ropes hanging down. Spray the outside of the hood camouflage colored spray paint. Use long erratic strokes, not heavy, but just thick enough to shade the strips.
  10. Let the paint dry, then season the hood.  Do this by leaving it outdoors for several days. A rainstorm would help remove the shine and smell. Drag it around in the grass and dirt, toss it in a lake, then hang it out to dry.  You have to remove the new smells and man odor.  The whole rig should smell musty like the woods.
Shorter strands give you a wig like effect for a lighter hood.

To wear the hat, just slip the net over your head and settle the hat on your head.  When you find a hiding place, squat down so your feet are concealed. Stop moving. Moving will give you away.

The hood will help the part of you that’s sticking up and looking around (your head) remain invisible to passing animals, birds and people. The net also allows you to stick branches and leafy fronds into the netting to increase the bush effect and conceal your big old punkin’ head under there.  Keep an eye out when walking to your hide for sticks and leaves and stuff that will improve your disguise and stick them into the netting.

When you’re going out, stick a roll of twine in your pocket so you can tie on things you find. Use a simple overhand knot so it’s easy to remove anything you tie on.

A Ghillie hat is a lot of fun and very useful for observing nature unobtrusively.


Friday, March 02, 2012

Beating Writer's Block

© 2012 by Tom King

Three basic factors cause writers to bog down in the writing process when trying to complete writing assignments - psychological, mechanical and process factors. Writers have different speeds and slow is not necessarily bad writing in the same way that fast writing is not necessarily good. Novelist Margaret Mitchell took ten years to write “Gone With the Wind”. Science, historical and science fiction author, Isaac Asimov, used to turn out a big thick book every month. If, however, you're a writer on a deadline, your speed can be a critical factor in whether or not you work and enjoy regular meals.

All three factors that impede writing can be overcome with a little practice and self-discipline.

Psychological Factors

One of the biggest factors that slows down the writing process lives inside your own head. Writers write, so the writing teacher's maxim goes. If you hate writing, you shouldn't be a writer. That said, even folk who love writing sometimes encounter the dreaded writer's block. Everyone who writes for a living or for fun has probably sat down at a page and puzzled over that first sentence. Writing projects can be like bobsleds. It takes a push to get them going, but after that it's pretty much downhill.

Except when it's not.

Psychological blocks often spring, ironically, from our desire to write well. While an excellent goal for a writer, sometimes good writing just doesn't naturally spring from the topic at hand. At times like these, it's best to forget about quality and go for quantity. That's why they call them “first drafts”. You can always come back and clean it up. Often you'll find yourself coming back and pitching out the first paragraphs of a piece. Sometimes you just have to take a run at it and several paragraphs in, you find your angle or capture the voice of the piece. You can always edit later. It's having nothing to edit later that's the real problem.

An excellent way to train yourself to write whether you feel like it or not is to keep a journal or write a weblog. Give yourself a minimum number of words to write. Started out with a goal of 400 words per day. Force yourself to write those 400 words no matter how pathetic the writing. The point of the exercise is to teach you to get into the “flow” of writing.

Renowned psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi demonstrated the power of the single-minded immersion experience he called “flow”. Flow often happens as we take a run at an absorbing task like writing and gradually become immersed in doing the task. All sorts of endorphins light up the brain, ennabling it to better access information and utilize skills the person already possesses. It's why, even though you don't feel like writing, you should just go ahead and write anyway. The physical process of writing can actually help you achieve the flow experience with your writing.

Mechanical Factors:

  1. The Keyboard: Bad typing skills impair more journalists than one can imagine. If your typing skills stink, buy yourself a Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor program and hone your touch typing skills. Forcing yourself to type correctly will speed up your typing speed in spite of yourself. If you are really bad at typing or don't know how and are learning, you might try the Dvorak keyboard. The original QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow down typists and prevent key jams on the mechanical typewriters of the day. John Dvorak developed a new key arrangement that places the most used letters under the typist's dominant fingers. If you're just starting out, the Dvorak keyboard can give you a higher top speed than the old QWERTY and a good deal more comfort as you type. Dvorak computer keyboards are inexpensive to buy and standard keyboards can be converted to the Dvorak system. It takes about a month of practice for a QWERTY typist to regain his/her speed on the Dvorak, so plan on learning during a vacation. Otherwise, just work on your QWERTYskills.
  2. The Computer: As computer operating systems become more bulky and new software adds to the burden placed on your computer's RAM memory, you can find yourself getting ahead of your word-processor. Consider a memory or motherboard upgrade to speed up your computer so it can handle the ever-increasing demands todays software places on your rapidly aging hardware.
  3. Paper and Pen: Some writers, believe it or not, still write first drafts in long hand with pen and paper. Prolific writers like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King write their first drafts in longhand. If you're stuck, try writing your first draft with a pen on paper. The mental exercise is different from typing. A study cited by Newsweek claims that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than mere typing. Whichever way works best for you, it's often helpful, if you're stuck, to switch writing methods for a bit to stimulate those creative juices. Always keep a yellow writing pad and a comfortable pen handy for times when you get bogged down.
Process Factors

What to write? Even if you're assigned a topic, the research part of the process can bog you down. Here's are some writers tricks to speed up the process.

  1. Find a good quiet place to write with few distractions. Everybody wants to write by a second story window with a view of the woods, the lake and the gardens, but few are able to cope with the distractions going on just outside. Don't make yourself so comfortable you have to fight sleep in order to write. When you reach a good stopping place – STOP. Get up, stretch, take a break. You will go back to writing with renewed vigor.
  2. Narrow the topic of your writing. Keep the subject matter within the scope of your assignment. Don't take on a broader topic than you can fit into the space or you'll bog down trying to edit.
  3. Copy down your references as you go. Mark and clip information you plan to use for your article in a word-processor document or on yellow legal pad.
  4. Outline your article and plug in the bits of research information. Write by sections, Let the first draft sit overnight if you can. This lets you come at the material with fresh eyes the next day. Edit the draft. Even with fiction, create a story guide that summarizes the five essential elements of story-telling – characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. Even novelists who say they don't work from an outline.
  5. Run the second draft past someone whose proofreading skills you trust. Then, do a final once-over before sending it off.

If you do a lot of writing, take notes on how you write, when you are writing well and quickly. Try to reproduce the conditions in your workspace when you are working best. Everyone is different. Pay attention to what works for you. Create cheat-sheets and outlines of the types of writing you do so that all you have to do is write the sections of the template. Even with fiction writing, you may want to create a story outline to work from that covers the basic elements of the story at minimum – characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution. The trick when you're bogged down or stuck is to jump start your writing, even if what you write is only an outline, a journal entry or blog or a really bad version of what you wanted to write.

Get your soap box rolling with a nice firm push.


Mark Foster: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

M.W. Brooks: Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard

The Bane of Your Resistance: Hands-On Solutions for Writer's Block

Working Writers: Nine Ways to Speed Up Your Writing

Five Essential Elements of a Short Story

Creative Writing Now: Easy Novel Outline