What Are the Different Types of Campfires

What Are the Different Types of Campfires?

different types of campfiresIf you are an old hand at camping, you probably already know about the different types of campfires that can be used at your campsite. However, if you are not familiar with these types of campfires, this article can help you quite a bit the next time you sleep under the stars.

Safety First

Many campsites have fire rings already in place. If you have one, clean it out before you try to light your fire. If you need make a fire ring (and you DO if one is not there), clear out the dead grass and other brush where you want to light your fire. Dig or scrape down to bare earth or rock. If you are on soil, dig down a few inches and put that dirt to the side. You can use that dirt to douse a fire that threatens to get out of control. The rest of the dirt, or stones should be put around the area as a firewall.

When you are ready to light your fire, pile some tinder in the center of the ring. Tinder is very light, easy to light material. Think hay, straw, paper, etc.

Different Types of Campfires

tepee type of campfireTepee fires are the most common type of campfires, and it is good for many things including cooking. To make a tee pee fire, start by putting some tinder (light, easy to catch fire material) into the center of your fire ring; build it up like a Indian style tepee. Over the tinder, set kindling such as twigs or sticks into a tepee fashion. Over the kindling, set larger material like larger sticks and smaller logs continuing that tepee style setup. Light the tinder and kindling, and the fire will move up into the larger material.

The Cross Fire Type of Campfire

The cross fire is great for those who want a long-lasting fire, good light and heat. Lay down your kindling and tinder and add a few larger twigs to it once the first is going. Then add logs in crisscrossed fashion. Do not add too many logs at one time or you could snuff out the fire.

The Cabin Type Campfire

log cabin type campfireThis type of campfire lasts a long time and it is good for providing light and cooking. Start by setting up your kindling in tepee fashion over your tinder. Put down two logs of firewood on each side of this cone that you have made. Then, put two more pieces of firewood over these, thus making a square. Once this is done, add shorter pieces of wood on top as you build up what looks like a log cabin.

Putting Out Your Campfire

When it is time to go, make sure you put your campfire correctly. Use water to put out the fire and to cool off the ashes. If you are in a state or federal park, follow their procedures. Some parks do not want you to “drown” the fire as someone else may be coming to your site later and the ground will be too wet for them to start their fire. Once the flames are out, it is always a good idea to shovel some dirt over the area to smother any possibly remaining embers.

We hope you have found our information on the different types of campfires helpful.

Putting Together a Winter Survival Kit

Putting Together a Winter Survival Kit

survival backpackYes, in many places it is still hot as hades, but now is the time to get started on your winter survival kit. Countless Americans will put this off, even forget about doing it until it is too late. One of the best reasons for working on your winter survival kit now is that you will be able to find everything more easily because demand will be much lower for those items you need in your kit. You can also find that you can save money as many items will be on sale during the summer months.

Cold Kills – Winter Survival Kit Tips

When winter rolls around, and it will, and temps fall below freezing, humans are at risk. Every year, hundreds of people perish because they were not prepared. Your winter survival kit can save your life and the lives of those you love. These kits are not expensive, and they can be put together in little time. There is no reason not to have one.

What You Need In Your Winter Survival Kit

Let’s begin by saying that the following is a basic list. You can add whatever you like to your winter kit. Also, keep in mind that it is a very good idea to have two types of winter survival kits. One for keeping in the home should the power go out, and the second type for keeping in your vehicles (all vehicles should have their own survival kit).

Blankets, Gloves, and Hats

Few things are as important as blankets. It is imperative that you stay as warm as possible during a winter emergency, and blankets are one of the keys to your survival. Sleeping bags will also work  but they can take up a lot of room in a vehicle. If you have a smaller car, consider getting space blankets. Your vehicle kit, especially, should have extra gloves and hats.

Fire for Staying Warm and Cooking

If the power is out for any length of time, you may need to start a fire for cooking, added heat, or keeping wildlife away from you at night. Have some waterproof matches or lighters in your kits. For both home and vehicle winter kits, having a few candles on hand can be very handy.

Shovel, Survival Knife/Tool, and Traction Aids

For your vehicles, have a shovel in the trunk as well as something to help you get some traction in case you get stuck. Sand, cat litter, or tire chains will all work (in most cases). If you cannot get the chains onto the tires, lay them out as flat as possible in front of the drive wheels. This may provide enough traction to get you going again. A good survival knife or survival tool can be worth its value in gold for cutting wood, skinning game (if it comes to that), and protection.

Food and Water

You should always keep some non-perishable food in both auto and home. This can be anything from MRE’s to energy bars. Make sure you have enough food and water for everyone who normally drives or stays with you. Bottled water will last a long time if it is not opened, even so, rotate your food and water supply once every couple of months.

First Aid Kit

Every home and vehicle should have a first aid kit in it year round. You can purchase inexpensive kits just about anywhere, and they can be life-savers when needed. Make sure your first aid kit has what YOU need; add to it or buy a better kit if it does not.

Flashlight

A light source is very important for both home and vehicle kits. Make sure you need fresh batteries on hand. You do not want to skimp on your flashlight; get the best you can afford.

Whistle, Mirror, Red Cloth

All (or any) of these can be used to signal others that you need help. If help cannot see or hear you, they cannot help you. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things that can save your life. For more information on how to use signal mirrors, see our previous blog post on signal mirrors.

Preserving Dried Fruits

fruit header

Have you ever noticed how quickly fresh fruit seems to go out of date? By drying fruit, it extends the length of time during which it’s still suitable to eat – sometimes by up to a year. Dried fruits are great, tasty snacks, and they’re high in energy. You can dry almost any type of fruit, but the most common include apples, pears, apricots, strawberries and pineapple.

To begin with, some fruits need to be pre-treated before they are dried. These include common fruits such as pears, peaches, apples and apricots. There are many different techniques which you can use to pre-treat your fruit, but the simplest is by simply combining equal parts of water and lemon juice (from a bottle is fine), then placing the fruit in this mixture. It should be left for 10 minutes or so, before being placed on the drying tray. By pre-treating fruit in this way, it will give your dried fruit a much better color, and also reduce the amount of vitamins that are lost during the drying process. In addition, you will be able to store and eat your dried fruit for longer periods of time.

It isn’t strictly necessary to peel your fruit before drying it, but it can help with thefruit process, as often the skin makes it difficult to remove moisture. Thinly, evenly sliced fruit works the best, as it will dry quickly and evenly. These sliced pieces of fruit should be placed on a tray inside a special food dehydrator, and make sure that none of the slices overlap. For the first hour, the fruit should be kept at a temperature of about 145ºF, after which the temperature can be reduced slightly.

There are several other methods which you can use to dry fruit, but using a dehydrator is by far the easiest and most reliable method. You can use your oven, as long as you’re able to set it to the correct temperature; convection ovens work effectively, as their fans move the air inside the oven around. Drying fruit outside of an oven at room temperature is possible, but very tricky, as the levels of humidity, temperature and air flow all have to be finely balanced. The same is true for drying fruit in the sun, as humidity levels may mean that there is too much moisture in the air for the fruit to dry properly.

Condition Fruit in JarsNevertheless, once your fruit has dried, it should be conditioned before being stored. Conditioning is the process by which all the remaining moisture within the fruit (which should be at about 20%) is distributed evenly amongst all the pieces. To do so, it is simply a case of packing it loosely into a glass jar for around a week to 10 days. By shaking the container daily, you will help to distribute the moisture evenly, but if any condensation does appear then the fruit will need to be dried some more.

Once your fruit has been properly dried, it can be stored in home canning jars, or plastic bags or containers for freezing. Luckily, dried fruits require less storage space than home canned foods, as well as less effort!

As you can see, preserving fruit by drying it is such a simple technique. With minimal effort, preparation and storage, you now have all the tools you need to create a delicious, healthy snack which will last for ages!

Home Fermentation of Vegetables: A Modern Resurgence of Classic Preservation Techniques

Home Fermentation of Vegetables: A Modern Resurgence of Classic Preservation Techniques

Egyptian Fermentation Containers

Egyptian Fermentation Containers

For thousands of years, people have been fermenting their home-grown vegetables for their own consumption. It started out due to the need to preserve foods for as long as possible without modern refrigeration. Since then, the popularity of fermented foods has increased and decreased, but lately many more people have been returning to old techniques.

Essentially, fermented vegetables are ‘the flavorful space between fresh and rotten’; at least The Art of Fermentation author Sandor Katz thinks so. They are actually vegetables which have had their starches and sugars converted into lactic acid – a naturally-formed preservative which stops ‘bad’ bacteria from growing. It sounds gross, but fermented vegetables taste great! Some common examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, pickles, kefir – even ketchup and mayonnaise started out their lives as fermented foods before they became mass produced.

It is believed that thousands of years ago, wine, cheese and bread were the original fermented foods. Alcohol probably started it all off over 7,000 years ago in what is now known as Iraq (formerly Babylon). In addition, hunter-gatherers may have eaten fermented and rotting fruits when food was scarce. Having to continue to eat this over time would have led them to develop a taste for fermented fruits. Evidence of bread (another fermented food) has been found in 3,500 year-old Egyptian tombs, and fermented milk and meat products are also thought to have been invented in Babylon.

These fermentation techniques and recipes were passed down through the generations, being developed as they went, to become what they are today. You may think you know a lot about modern bread and alcohol fermenting techniques, but when it comes to vegetables, there’s a big difference in how they were fermented in the past to the techniques used today.

One modern technique is to ferment the vegetables in a clay crock, before transferring them to jars, but a far quicker and tastier option is to simple ferment the vegetables while already in glass Mason jars.

Modern Fermentation of Cabbage (Sauerkraut)

Almost any vegetables can be fermented, but cabbage is a great starting point. It is important to remember that fermentation intensifies flavors, so onion, garlic and some herbs will be too overpowering. The washed and shredded vegetables need to be squeezed until their juices come out, then a little salt, celery juice or starter culture (such as kefir grains or whey, for example) should be added. Salt is the traditional ingredient; its purpose is to inhibit the growth of bacteria which will cause the food to putrefy. The more salt that is used, the slower the fermentation process will be. Next, once placed in the jar, the vegetables must be pushed down firmly to remove all oxygen, which unwanted bacteria need to grow. Within the jar, the vegetables should be weighed down (covering them with a cabbage leaf is perfect), before the lid is tightly sealed. The jars need to be kept in a warm environment – room temperature should be fine – in order for the fermentation process to take place. The length of time that this will take varies from a couple of days to a few weeks. To a large extent it depends on taste, so keep tasting it by dipping in a sterilized spoon. Once it’s ready, it can be moved to the refrigerator and enjoyed!

With improving knowledge and technology, fermenting vegetables at home is becoming easier, quicker and more efficient. Techniques have changed a lot since the cavemen tried this out, but the principle and some of the ingredients remain the same to this day. As you can see, home fermentation of vegetables is actually a surprisingly simple process, so you have no excuse not to test out this time-honored, classic tradition yourself!

Home Canning Vegetables for the Self Sustained Family

Home Canning Vegetables

As a child, my parents had a huge garden. We were not poor but were far from rich. My mother canned everything. Heck, one year we had so many tomatoes, she made homeade ketchup for my one brother who ate everything with ketchup on it. She grew up on a farm during the 40’s and 50’s. I suppose it was in her genes. We spent numerous hours during the summer as “endentured servants” weeding and picking vegetables. I swore when I was an adult I would never have a garden or can anything. As an adult, I have come to realize that my parents actually had a lot of sense. Also, they saved a lot of “cents” with the garden and mom’s canning.

Growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs can be a rewarding experience. It is a lot of work yet fun. The sense of satisfaction you get when you see something that you have planted and nurtured grow into something delicious is incredible! Gardening is a wonderful way of gaining quality family time by getting kids to interact with gardening. Although, I will admit total failure in that department! In order to turn this hobby into something more serious, such as to become a self-sustained family it is a good idea to start canning your vegetables. This will make them last as long as possible as well as add a variety to your diet.

Despite the name ‘canning’, food is usually preserved and stored in glass mason jars. These jars are available from a wide variety of retailers. By using the canning method, your food has a shelf-life of about one year, which is hundreds of times longer than fresh food. An additional benefit to canning is you will know exactly what you are putting into the food you serve your family. Not only are home canned vegetables healthier they can also be tastier than store-bought canned food.

The process is actually rather simple. There are two types of canning methods, water bath canning and pressure canning. I’ll cover pressure canning later in the article. For water bath canning, all you need is a large pot filled with boiling water. Most big box stores sell the familiar grey speckled canning pots. You need to make sure you have thoroughly washed and sterilized your jars, lids and rings. This can be done by washing in the jars hot soapy water and rinsing thoroughly with hot water or you can simply run them through the dishwasher. For the lids and rings, simply put them in a pot of boiling water with the heat turned off. Do not boil them, simply submerge them in the boiling water until you need them. If you are using a hot pack recipe where you will be filling the jars with something like boiled tomatoe sauce, you need to fill jars with hot water until ready to fill.

Prepare your recipe and fill jars, leaving at least an inch of head space. Once the jars have been filled, carefully wipe off the mouth of the jar with a sterile cloth and secure the lid with the metal band. The jars are then put in the water bath canner and completely covered with hot water. Bring to a boil and process for the period of time designated in your recipe. The type of food being preserved and the size of the jars you are using will determine process times. The time can vary between anything from a few minutes to over an hour. Sealing the jars in this way not only kills bacteria, it also removes extra air from the jar. This allows the food to last longer and ensure it is less likely to spoil.

The most important thing to be aware of when home canning is the use of proper sanitation. When you are home canning, there is a possibility of botulism if items are not properly processed. You have to use the proper canning method for yoour food items as well. Botulism is a form of food poisoning that can cause serious illness, paralysis and even death. While it is a rare occurrence in high acid foods, it can occur in low acid foods if the proper method is not used. The bacteria that causes botulism cannot be killed by using water bath canner, so low acid foods need to be processed in a pressure canner. Using a pressure canner is the only way to be certain the bacteria are killed, as the temperature reaches far higher points than the water bath method canning water does due to the pressure. This is essential, as botulism is usually undetectable. You should not eat any canned items that appear cloudy or have a slightly sour smell or taste.

Take care to avoid endangering yourself, your family and others, by using a pressure canner for all low acid foods. Remember however, this only applies to foods that are not very acidic. High-acid foods such as tomatoes are acidic enough to kill the bacteria, whereas foods like beans, corn, meat, fish and poultry are not. It is not necessary to use a pressure canner for high acid foods. Most high acid recipes will include the processing time for it. Low acid recipes will always include a time and pressure at which to process the jars.

The internet is filled with countless recipes, tips and suggestions on how to prepare your canned food items. However, the best way for you to master it all is just to jump right in and try things out! As long as you are careful and follow the basic guidelines, then you are well on your way to becoming a home canning aficionado!

How to Corn Your Own Beef

Home Cured Corned Beef

How to Corn Your Own Beef

Many people think of corned beef as traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare, which originated in Ireland. Whether or not you have Irish heritage, it is still fun to get involved with the celebrations! Next time, instead of going to the store and buying pre-packaged corned beef, why not take a stab at making your own? It is not as difficult as you might think. In fact, the hardest part is leaving it alone for a few days to process! If you like the idea of having homemade corned beef which is tastier than the store-bought stuff, then give this a try.

When selecting the meat to be corned, it is important to purchase a good quality cut. The best choice is a flat-cut brisket, but make sure that the beef has been carefully reared. Organic, grass-fed beef will give you the best flavor, more vitamins, and it is healthier than other beef. In addition, for some people it is comforting to know that the meat that you’re eating enjoyed a good life!

Once you have your brisket it is time to select the rest of the needed ingredients. You may find that many recipes tell you to use sodium nitrate to cure the meat, however, recent concerns over whether nitrates are damaging to our health may change your mind. Various organizations, including the American Cancer Society and National Academy of Sciences, have declared that there is no risk of sodium nitrates causing cancer if you are using it in cooking. Therefore, it is ultimately your decision whether to use it or not. Why use sodium nitrates? The main reason for using sodium nitrates when making corned beef is to keep the meat looking pink. If you do not mind your beef turning a little grey-brown, then you can leave it out as it is not an essential ingredient, it just makes the meat look like you are accustomed to seeing it appear. Only you can weigh up the risks with the benefits!

The name ‘corned’ beef actually comes from the type of salt which is used in processing. Essentially, corning beef is just soaking the meat in brine, and the best type of salt to use has large crystals, called ‘corns.’ Whatever you do, do not use ordinary table salt, as the grains are too small. You would end up using more salt than the recipe calls for, and the dish would end up being far too salty. Generally, coarse ground Kosher salt is recommended, due to its large grains.

Spices for Home Curing of Corned BeefIn cold water, you should combine the Kosher salt with a little sugar and some pickling spices (if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even try making your own pickling spices, as well!). The general rule of thumb is that the brine should be made up of ten parts water, two parts Kosher salt, one part sugar and half part of pickling spices. Basically, ten cups water, two cups Kosher salt, one cup sugar and a half a cup of pickling spices, but feel free to adjust the amounts slightly to suit your tastes. Mix the mixture until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Corned beef is delicious if the flavor runs throughout the whole piece of meat, and there are several ways in which you can achieve this. The most technical method is to use a marinade injector to inject the mixture deep into the brisket’s tissue. If that sounds too complicated, then it can work just as well if you pierce the meat all over using a small-bladed knife. The brine will be able to soak into the meat through the pierced holes.

Once the brine is made, and the meat has been prepped you may add the pierced brisket of beef to the brine. Use something heavy to weigh it down so that the meat stays submerged. Then it is simply a case of covering it and leaving it in the refrigerator for a number of days.

This is not the sort of dish which you can prep the day before you want to eat it. Different recipes will tell you to leave the brisket in the refrigerator for anywhere from four to eight days. In reality, the longer you can get away with leaving it in the refrigerator, the tastier the flavor will be. If you can prepare it around a week in advance, that would be ideal. Just remember to take it out of the refrigerator after about four days and flip it to ensure that the entire brisket is marinating evenly in the brine.

When the beef is ready, remove it and rinse it under cold running water. You are then ready to cook it however you please, although boiling in water is the traditional option. If you have cured your beef well, with a selection of tasty pickling spices, then you can probably get away with slowly cooking it in plain, simmering water for a few hours. That said, you can choose to add other ingredients such as garlic, allspice or additional pickling spices to the water and the brisket before boiling.

After around three hours of cooking, remove the beef from the pan and allow it to cool. Then all you have to do is slice it and enjoy a little taste of St. Patty’s Day, made from scratch! Another twist is to smoke the brisket in a smoker after coating it with cracked pepper. You’ll end up with some of the tastiest homemade pastrami you’ve ever tasted.

Living a Self-Sustained Lifestyle: Crazy or Just Plain Smart?

Self Sustained Living - Crazy or Just Plain Smart?With the rising cost of living and resurgence in the popularity of growing your own fruit and vegetables, becoming self-sustained is an increasingly appealing option. However, to do it properly, it is more than just a hobby; it becomes an entire lifestyle. Yes, you may be living a more independent and healthy lifestyle, but it will be hard work and you’ll be amongst the minority. Is living a self-sustained lifestyle worth it? I will address some of the things you will encounter as you attempt to live more self-sufficiently.

If you succeed in becoming self-sufficient, you will be able to provide everything that your family needs, without having to rely on any outside suppliers (or the government for that matter). You will build a knowledge base and skill set which will likely surprise yourself. There is no way to go about this half-heartedly; you will need drive, determination and motivation, and you’ll need it in bucket loads.

There are many reasons why you may choose to go down a self-sustained route. For some, it may be something like the desire to be prepared in case of an emergency. Should there be a global, political, economic or environmental crisis, you will be ready to bounce back and continue with your life quicker than others. On the other hand, you may be thinking purely of the environment. There is no doubt that becoming self-sufficient dramatically reduces your carbon footprint; so if you  are conscious about how your actions are affecting the planet and future generations, then this is a way to alleviate any self-imposed guilt. Furthermore, by becoming self-sufficient, the food that you eat is certainly going to be healthier as well. By becoming self-sufficient, you will eliminate the pesticides and other chemicals applied to food that is produced in bulk for mass consumption. Not only is this great for your own health, but it great for the health of the environment as well.

Home Cooked Meals with the FamilyOne of the biggest influencing factors for people to become self-sufficient is the sense of personal satisfaction that they achieve. There is nothing more satisfying than eating a meal made from food that you’ve grown, prepared and cooked yourself! My opinion is that any effort you put into self-sustained living is worth the time. We need to be examples to the next generations. We simply cannot sustain this generational mindset that the government will take care of everyone. There simply isn’t enough money in the coffers to accomplish that socialistic pipe dream.

Another massive advantage to being self-sufficient is that your living costs will go down over time. It is true that you may have some start-up costs, such as buying dried goods like rice and beans in bulk for long term storage or seeds to plant in your garden. However, the amount of food you receive for the initial investment far outweighs the cost of purchasing the products from the grocery store. You will also want to consider purchasing local grass fed beef, local organically raised pork and chicken for long term freezer storage. If you have the land, consider raising the livestock yourself. Over time, you will more than pay for the up-front bulk purchase and storage costs with the amount you save on grocery shopping. Keep in mind, however, you will need to balance these out against the costs. Buying a side of beef and a hog once or twice a year is more expensive up front however; the price per pound will be significantly lower. When you are trying to save money, is spending hundreds of dollars to get yourself set up worth it?

One of the most appealing, fun and rewarding things about taking on this lifestyle is the new range of skills that you are going to learn. Don’t know how to skin a rabbit, make your own soap, or fix a leaky roof? More basically, if you do not know how to cook from scratch with whole foods, you will soon enough! It is all about trial and error and learning. Grandma's Cookbook RecipesDon’t be afraid to try a new food like rabbit or make a meal from a cookbook your grandmother had her entire life. In fact, one of the most rewarding things my family enjoys are simple home cooked meals that we share around our family dinner table. Knowing that I produced the food on the table makes it all the more rewarding.

However, it is important to remember that it is almost impossible for a single person (and even a single family) to do everything themselves. Think back to centuries ago, before the advent of technology, when everyone farmed their own food and washed their clothes by hand – even then, people did not do everything themselves. There was a lot of trade, so they still had to rely on each other. In that sense, it would almost be better to have a whole self-sufficient community. Trying to convince your neighbors and friends to follow suit may be a challenge! So many people have grown up in the “handout generation” that they may not have a clue about where to start. The important thing is not to be too hard on yourself. Self-sufficiency is a difficult lifestyle initially.  Don’t be afraid to ask others who live the lifestyle for help whenever you need it.

All in all, the decision on whether or not to have a self-sustained lifestyle does not have to be a difficult one. I will concede that it is certainly not a way of life that will suit everyone. However, it does have many advantages, namely the sense of freedom and feeling of control over your lifestyle that it will give you. To many, it may seem like living a self-sustained lifestyle is crazy – the hard work and upfront costs might feel like more effort than they are worth. It is more of a mindset that you do not have to be dependent upon commercial suppliers of processed foods. You can easily consume home grown and healthy foods. It just takes more planning up front. You do not have to be dependent on the government to take care of you. You are in control of your life, not the politicians in Washington, DC.Politicians Don't Control Your Life

Those who have already made the transition to a self-sustained lifestyle would probably argue that they are just plain smart! They can live simply, how they wish, without needing to rely on anyone for anything. Ultimately, it all comes down to you as an individual, and as a family. What do you ultimately want to achieve? Are you prepared to put in all of the hard work and dedication? If you think that the pros of living a self-sustained lifestyle outweigh the cons – if you think you have what it takes – then you may well end up having the last laugh!