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!


Definitely Not Spring Yet

DSC00733Sigh.  Another round of snow and wicked cold temperatures this weekend.  It would have been a good weekend to get some cold weather backpacking done, however, family is more important and with my daughter in town for Spring Break, I stayed home.  Things cleared up a bit this morning and I took the kids down to Garden of the Gods for some light hiking and picture taking.







CeleryI’m very happy with how well the celery and onion are coming along.  According to my calendar it’s time to start the Cosmonaut Volkov Tomatoes, Jupiter Peppers, Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage, and De Cicco Broccoli.  So far, the seeds from Terroir Seeds have been doing very well.  They also sent along three packets of free seeds that I have passed on friends.  My son’s Cub Scout den is growing Bambina Carrots and Sweet Basil.Onions





Well, that’s all for this week.  Take care out there and keep working to make yourselves better.

Winter Camping and Seed Starting

One of the skills I’m working on this year is winter camping.  I’m most comfortable in a hammock, so I’ve been working on making my own gear for better hammock camping.  I had other commitments this weekend, so a camping trip wasn’t possible.  However, we had another snow storm today, so I put on my winter camping backpack with everything I would take for a weekend camping trip and went for a “hike” in town.  I live near a large park with many hiking trails and campgrounds so I headed out the door, hiked to the grand view terrace of the park and came back for a total hike of 5.37 miles in about two hours.  I learned the pack weight is reasonable, but sweating is still going to be an issue.


Last week, I started some celery seeds and started on a grow light setup.  The seed package says they need a couple of weeks before they sprout, but I’ve found in my research that the grow lights will speed that up.  Funds are tight this week, so I dug around in the garage and found materials to finish rigging up the lights.


It’s not pretty and it’s not a permanent structure, but it’ll get the job done.  Not bad for some used PVC pipe and fittings, a little 550 cord, and some 3/8in. bungee cord I ordered by mistake last year.  Here’s another perspective –


I couldn’t have done it without some knots you might not use in everyday life – a Prusik Loop and a Clove Hitch.

That’s all for this week.  Keep learning and trying new things!