Archery: It’s awesome

For my birthday this year, I received a very unique gift. After enjoying a couple of rounds at my local archery range, I got my very own recurve bow. Archery is, for me, something in which I can find a piece of tranquility.  Your focus in aiming has to be so intense that you can think of nothing else, which is a wonderful gift for me.  It’s relaxing and rewarding to shoot an arrow and there is something nerdy and archaic about it too. I spent hours shooting arrow after arrow during my first time and it filled me with adrenaline and confidence. I look forward to the days when I can escape to the range and improve my shot!

For those that don’t know, this a modern recurve bow: 51+rUnXj8WL._SL1500_

As you can see, the ends of the bow curve outward, hence its name. There are a variety of different types of bows out there that can take you through many eras of history. For example, the long bow is the weapon that shaped England’s history as it was the weapon of military choice before firearms as well as the object of leisure for many men. The longbow is drawn with the use of 2 fingers as the center point of the bow when you draw back is directly in the middle, whereas with the recurve, you would use three fingers as the draw back point isn’t exactly center because of the way the bow curves. This feature however makes the bow more powerful.  The compound bow, one of the most popular bows, was created in the 1960’s. The compound bow consists of pulleys that allow the archer to have more power in their bow with an easier draw back.  Compound bows are easier to shoot and much easier to aim.

For myself, I prefer the challenge of a more traditional bow so I stuck with a basic wooden recurve. Olympic archers use recurve bows but they are made of metal and will have sights and counter weights attached to them in order to increase accuracy.  My bow has no accessories and I’ve even stuck with the more traditional archer glove (made of leather to protect your fingers from the burn of the string) instead of a tab (a piece of felt that rests over the fingers).

I’ve read two books to help me on my journey to improve as an archer:
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Both books covered a short history of the bow and go over the basics of form, aiming and releasing. While they were both helpful I definitely preferred the Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Archery. This book catered to my style and provided more tips on instinctive shooting, which is shooting without any assistance from sights. It discussed where you should be looking and what types of methods you could incorporate into your aiming as well as where you focus needs to be. Archery: Steps to Success covered a massive amount of exercises to practice and improve in every aspect of archery. What I found the most beneficial from this book was the emphasis it placed on having a routine and having a set of  steps to work through before aiming. The objective is that your form should be perfect before you shoot so that all of your focus can go into your aiming and nothing else.  Your focus should be so intense that you see nothing but the object you’re aiming for. If you have to think about your form and aiming at the same time chances are you’re not going to be as accurate.   These are the most important tips that I picked up:

1) Make sure that you have a bow that has an appropriate draw length for you size. A bow that is too heavy will create bad form habits. Ask a staff member at your local archery range for assistance with this.

2) The same goes with equipment: ensure that your arrows are the appropriate length for your draw length. Ask a staff member at your local archery range for assistance with this. This will help avoid injury and improve accuracy. Archery is all about the arrows. Most archers would pick a poorer quality bow over poor quality arrows.

3) Proper form and draw come from pinching and using your back muscles, not your arms! You will tire too quickly if you just rely on the strength of your arms and you won’t be keeping good form.

4) The point in which you draw back your string when the arrow is nocked and ready to be shot is imperative. You need a constant draw anchor. While there are a variety of types, picking on a being consistent is extremely important for accuracy and safety.

5) Don’t over grip the bow. Use just your thumb and forefinger to hold the bow. Your grip should be as light as possible as over-gripping will also effect your accuracy.

6) Use constant pressure on all three of your fingers.

7) Keep your shoulders lowered to avoid getting the upper part of your arm struck by the string upon release of the arrow.

8) Your shots should come naturally and not anticipated. A natural release ensures that you let your hands glide past your face and that you’re not over-stressing either of your hands on the shot.

9) Practice, practice, practice! Archery is all about consistency. Practicing with consistent form and practing consistently will produce accuracy.

Archery is an inexpensive recreation and I highly recommend it to anyone who has every had an interest or is looking for something different to do.

Beginner Gardening for Canada by A.H. Jackson.

I am an absolute noob when it comes to anything green. I can keep my cats alive but I’m notorious for killing indoor plants and up until recently I’ve never had a yard to attempt anything other than that. I now have a yard that requires my maintenance and I am afraid. My Dad was the gardener in my family and was such a Nazi about his yard that the one time I mowed the lawn for him as a teenager,  he went out and did it again as I had the pattern all wrong and it really wasn’t done to his standards. However, my Dad did have a passion for gardening and I always loved eating fresh vegetables or seeing our own flowers grow so perhaps his green-thumb will transfer to me?

To give myself some confidence I picked up a book at the library called Beginner Gardening for Canada by A.H. Jackson. The book is easy to read and has a decent amount of pictures. There were times I felt that the author was a tad pretentious and condescending towards non-gardeners like myself and particularly about the direction that many people have taken in terms of outdoor decorating and the environments we thrive in everyday. With that being said, his passion did rub off on me and he made some very valid points in terms of how humans have fallen out with nature and the benefits of reconnecting with it. The author is also extremely experienced and knowledgeable and I learned a few things! So here are few things that I’m going to retain when I tackle my yard in the coming spring weeks:

1) Map your yard. It’s a good idea to map out the sunny and shady areas in your yard as well as the water drainage areas.

2) Rhubarb leaves are toxic to both humans and to insects. Put the leaves into boiling water and it soak for 24-hours, filter and add a few drops of dish detergent and you have a very natural and effective insecticide for mites and aphids.

3) Know your soil. Analyze samples of your soil by gathering some from various spots and places and put it a large jar with water. Screw the lid on tight, give the jar a good shake and let it sit for 24 hours. The soil will settle into laters: sand on the bottom, then layers of silt, clay, water and floating organic matter. If the sand, silt and clay settle in almost equal layers you have well-balanced soil.  If there is little organic material it indicates that your soil needs compost, peat moss, rotted manure or all three. If you have a lot of clay, that will need to be remedied.  Clay is the bane of any gardener’s existence as it provides very poor drainage. To counter clay, build raised beds with quality top soil.

4) Soil testing is important. Especially if you’re planning on starting a vegetable garden. Homes and soil have been subjected to a lot of different things over the years and you want to ensure that your soil is free of toxins as those toxins will make their into your grown foodKnowing what’s in your soil will also give you an idea what kind of plants will thrive in your yard.

5) Ditch the deck. According to the author, decks are the “insidious 1960’s-era inventions of lumber dealers wanting to horn in on the rising popularity of the flagstone patio”.  The author argues that decks turn landscape into an afterthought and that they raise homeowners above their gardens making them “nature voyeurs”. He insists that we should be one with nature and that a patio is by far a better option.

6) Rookies should avoid bramble bushes. Jams are delicious but brambles are needy. They require a lot of attention and grow like weeds. They can easily become overwhelming for a new gardener.

7) Wear garden gloves. I always figured that gloves were just to prevent scraps and bruises while messing around in the dirt but there is actually a lot more to it than that. Soil is full of bacteria, mold and nematodes. C. tetani, lives everywhere, to the air with breathe, our beds, skin and food but for the most part they call their home in the earth.  Many people get this bacteria by stepping on a nail in an outdoor or dirty environment, it’s because this bacteria needs a deep wound void of oxygen in order to survive. If you get deep wound while out gardening always get a booster shot as this bacteria can develop into tetanus which, causes painful muscular spasms that can lead to respiratory failure and, in up to 40% of cases, death. Nematodes, or more commonly known as the Roundworm, lay their eggs and larvae in soil and are everywhere you dig. If they get on your hands and then you touch your mouth you will have some new friends living in your intestine. Wearing gloves will protect you from these microscopic dangers.

8) Shrubs and hedges are great for beginning Canadian gardeners. Shrubs are a result of climate rather than an actual botanical category. They are trees that have evolved to adapt and recover from storms and unfavorable weather. Almost any tree can become a shrub or a hedge with pruning. They can also be a lot of fun to work with as you can get creative with your shrub or hedge shapes.

9) Keep your mower blades sharp. Dull mower blades will rip your grass instead of cutting it causing damage your grass.

10) Weeding. Know your enemy. Careful that you’re not pulling up what you’ve worked hard to plant. Avoid weeds in a vegetable garden by using a rototiller prior to planting and use mulch in flower beds. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching weed seeds and slows water evaporation. It’s also organic so it will eventually breakdown and add nutrients to your soil.