Making Lemonade

SpringRobinThe robins have arrived!

I didn’t make actual lemonade this week, however plans went awry and I had to adapt and make the best of things.  I haven’t spent a night in the woods since November and Winter Camping is one of the things I wanted to work on for 13Skills.  The weather was going to be decent this weekend in the Lost Creek Wilderness, highs in the 50s, lows in the 30s so I decided to head up there Friday afternoon with my son.  Knowing how long it would take to drive, I decided to camp close to the road at Goose Creek Campground, but I didn’t think to check if it was a Forest Service campground or not.  Turns out it is and it was closed.  We probably could have gotten away with pitching a tent, but I knew it wasn’t right and it was definitely not a good example for my son.  We did check it out and it’s a nice campground.  Beautifully wooded, right next to the cold waters of Goose Creek, and a first-come-first-served campground.

Easy Fire StartingTo make matters worse, it was getting late, the wind was picking up, and rain clouds were on the horizon.  We looked at a couple of spots and I decided to just make a fire to cook some hotdogs on and we would drive home in the dark.

Wanting to get things going quickly, I pulled out one of the fire straws I keep in my fire kit.  These are really simple to make:

  1. Cuts a straw to the length you want.  Mine fit in the tin I keep with my knife.
  2. Melt one end of the straw using needle nose pliers and a lighter.
  3. Mix a small amount of petroleum jelly with some cotton balls in a plastic bag.  Maybe one cotton ball sized dab of PJ to about 6 cotton balls.  Too much makes it hard for the cotton to catch a spark.
  4. Knead the bag to distribute the petroleum jelly.
  5. Stuff PJ soaked cotton ball into straw with needle nose pliers.
  6. Seal the other end of the straw.

These are really handy and never go bad.  When you need them, just cut one open and pull the cotton ball out.  Pull it apart some to increase the surface area available to catch a spark and put it in your tinder bundle.

Unfortunately for us, I didn’t build enough of a wind break and the wood never really caught fire.  PJ soaked cotton balls burn hot for several minutes so there was no other excuse for the fire to not start.  It was a good thing I had already planned to cook breakfast on the Coleman stove or I would have had to listen to a hungry boy until we got back to town!  Always have a Plan B, I even had a Plan C available in the form of the alcohol stove I keep in my day pack!PalmerPark1

Here’s where the lemonade part comes in.  Having been defeated by a “Closed” sign, we decided to go to Palmer Park here in town and do some hiking.  We saw more people, dogs, and mountain bikers than I really cared for, but at least we were out in the sun and “doing something”.  I was able to show my son how the local yucca can be used to make cordage and even as a sewing needle with built in thread (thanks Dual Survivor!).  I also demonstrated how to use a sighting compass and a map to determine your location, but I think he was getting tired at that point!

Seedlings_08APRLast, but not least, the seedlings are coming along well except for the peppers.  I may have to start some more of them.  Thanks for reading!


Grab Bag Post

It was a pleasant Spring Break with the kids, watching movies, a little hiking, and just spending time together.  I didn’t get any big projects done, but we did chip away at the on-going garden preparations.

Seedlings Status April 2

Seedlings Status April 2

The broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes we planted last week have started to sprout.  The peppers haven’t poked up yet though.  The celery is coming along well as you can see and the onions are growing towards the lights in the back of the box. Broccoli and cabbage are pretty cold hard, so they’re going into the ground by the end of April, a couple weeks before the last frost date.  Tomatoes can be transplanted immediately after last frost, but peppers and celery will have wait until June when they will be safe from frost.

I still have some work to do to get the bed ready.  I need to get the garden soil from last year’s container garden put in and possibly buy some more to get the bed filled to about three inches below the rim.  The rest of the bed will be filled with wood chip mulch to protect the seedlings and reduce watering.  That thick mulch layer will shield the soil from the sun and provide a source of organic material to break down and enrich the bed.

Another thing I’ve been doing to enrich the soil is adding coffee grounds.  I don’t have a compost pile, but you can add coffee grounds directly to the soil without composting!50rds of 30-06 for the next CMP shoot

Since I missed shooting in a competition last month, I wanted to be sure I was ready this month.  An hour was spent depriming and sizing brass one night.  Another night, I primed all the brass then started charging the gunpowder and seating bullets.  Mid way through, I found that I deformed some of the brass while trimming it by hand and it needed to be resized.  Ouch.  Looking at the resizing die, I realized I fix this if I took the depriming pin out and ran the now-primed brass back through.  It worked and I now have fifty rounds of 30-06 ready for my M1 Garand at the next local CMP match.

I’m a fan of Dave Canterbury and his approach to preparedness.  I especially appreciate his down to earth approach to things.  Now, I had been keeping my entire backpacking kit in my truck “just in case”, but it was too big and I thought I might have accumulated enough redundant items in my camp boxes that I could build a smaller kit that would fit in a small backpack I’m not using much these days.  Canterbury has several videos on his 10 C’s of survivability with the first five being the most important.  These are:

  1. Cutting Tool
  2. Covering Device
  3. Combustion Device
  4. Container
  5. Cordage

If you’re going to have repeats of any items, it should be these first five.  The remaining five are “nice to haves” and best suited to survival in the woods – Cotton bandana, compass, candeling device (light source), canvas needle, cargo tape (duct/duck/100mph tape).  Here’s my basic kit using the extras floating around my camp boxes:

Multi-tool, Knife, Cook Pot, Toiletries, Fire Kit, Space Blanket, Mirror

Multi-tool, Knife, Cook Pot, Toiletries, Fire Kit, Space Blanket, Mirror

Hammock, Cordage, GI Poncho, and Food

Hammock, Cordage, GI Poncho, and Food

  • Leatherman Multi-tool
  • Buck fixed blade knife
  • Small pot
  • Fire kit consisting of matches, ferro-rod with Gorilla tape handle, cotton pads with petroleum jelly
  • Space blanket
  • Toiletries – paper (can be used for fire) , wet wipes, lip balm (another possible fire fuel), tooth brushes
  • Folding mirror
  • Water purification tablets
  • Gorilla tape wrapped around card (yet another fire starter material)


  • Hammock (shelter)
  • Nylon cordage
  • GI Poncho (rain wear/shelter)
  • Training MRE (similar to but cheaper than a real MRE)

Not shown is a GI canteen or water and a canteen cup in the actual backpack, an Energizer headlamp that stays in the glove box of the truck, a small first aid kit, or the tools and jumper cables kept in the truck.  All of the 5 C’s are covered and most of the last five are included as well.  It’s probably not a full “72 hour kit”, but there’s enough here to keep me going for a day or two.

That’s enough for this week.  The weather is looking good for the weekend (32F nights), so maybe some cold weather camping is in order for next week’s post!