It’s the seemingly small skills that can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. They’re easy to master and cheap to practice. The summer is a great time to spend some time outside working on some manual skills that we should all at least have some idea how to do. We’ve chosen some basic skills that don’t take too much time or money to practice and that can be done in a small backyard. They’re perfect for including your family and friends and are fun ways to be active outdoors.
Whether grown at home or purchased, stacking firewood is the best way to ensure that it’s dry and efficient to burn. Dry wood burns best, so the key to a quality stack is exposing the ends of each piece so that the sun and breezes can dry it out over six months or so. If you can, use the Hammock method and stack between two trees about 15 feet apart and use them as end posts. If such trees aren’t available, you can support the ends of the pile with anything stable, such as a fence post.
The style of your stack is your individual choice as long as you don’t stack too tightly, allowing space for air to circulate through the pile. Alternating your pieces in a north-south then east-west fashion can increase stability and air flow. Use pallets, cement blocks, or stones to keep the wood up off of the ground and any moisture that accumulates.
Stack the wood with some irregularities and split logs in certain spots to avoid any long vertical seams that can make the pile unsteady. Protect against rain by overlapping split pieces along the top with the bark side up like roof shingles or by covering with a tarp. Just be sure that the stack stays open to let air and heat circulate. Don’t forget the need for quarter-split logs and kindling, which can be kept nearby.
What You’ll Need: a purchased or self-cut cord (128 cubic feet of wood that ends up as a stack 4ft. high, 8ft. long, and 4ft. deep) of wood, gardening gloves, a location that gets sun and breezes, dark colored tarp (optional).
2.Build a Campfire
There are many ways to build a campfire, but the one you should practice making is a Log Cabin style campfire. It’s easy to build, stable, and very hot. Start by creating a clean and clear circle in which to build your fire. Either dig a small pit about 6-8 inches deep if the ground is soft enough or create a ring of large stones. Be sure that the area is clear and far away any danger of starting unintended fires.
The key to a Log Cabin style campfire is a strong and hot core with plenty of fuel. The dry and organized wood from your stack that’s been seasoning all summer long will work nicely. Assemble a nice amount of kindling material. Soft and dry grasses and leaves that catch fire quickly will form the bottom layer and pencil thin sticks that snap easily will be the kindling level.
Start with a flat and dry spot on the ground. Dig a small ditch about one inch deep in the soil. This will hold an initial bundle of kindling and will be at the center of your Log Cabin structure. Around your small ditch place three wrist-sized pieces of wood, leaving the open end facing away from any breeze. keep this small ditch accessible at all times as you build the structure, since you’ll ignite the fire by placing a bundle of kindling (or match, lighter, or fire-starter) in the trench.
Build your structure up by alternating perpendicular logs on one level and small dry kindling above it. This ensures that the core of the structure burns nice and hot right from the start. Any larger wood pieces should be on the outside of each perpendicular level to keep the structure stable. Each layer should be made up of pieces and kindling slightly larger than the last. Ignite your structure through the trench at the base and each level will catch the next above it, resulting in a hot and stable campfire.
What You’ll Need: 15-20 dry pieces of wrist-sized wood, plenty of pencil-sized and dry kindling material, and a clear and dry place to build a fire.
3.Cook a Fish on Hot Coals
As your campfire dies down you’ll be left with a glowing bed of hot coals. After some practice you’ll be able to manipulate a bed of coals to create delicious meals equal to anything you could cook up on a grill or stove-top. To start, use a longer piece of wood to arrange the coals into a flat surface. When the coals are glowing red and you can’t hold your hand over them for more than a few seconds, they’re hot enough to cook on.
For adventure’s sake, head to the grocery store and choose a whole fish with the head, tail, and scales still intact. A trout or red snapper is an excellent choice. A fully thawed fish will cook best. Unless it’s a freshly caught fish, the cleaning has been done for you. If you’ve been keeping a small herb garden this is the perfect chance to use them by stuffing the inside of the fish with herbs and slices of lemon or any fruit for flavor.
You can place your fish in a nice bed of aluminum foil, but if you’re more adventurous and actually prepping for a time when no foil is handy, use large moistened leaves such as banana or oak to wrap up your fish. Secure the little package with moistened twine. Just be sure you’re using a leaf that’s safe to cook with. In the case of fish, you can place the fish directly on the coals without any foil or leaves, but it will take practice to cook it with minimal ash or dirt getting on the meat.
After 6 or so minutes on each side, your fish should be ready. Depending on the size of the fish and the heat, it may take longer. Double check that you can easily pierce the skin with a knife or fork and that the meat is firm and flakes away easily. Let your fish cool a little and then pick it apart, keeping watch for any bones.
What You’ll Need: A flat and hot bed of coals, sturdy aluminum foil or large edible leaves and twine for wrapping, freshly caught or fully thawed fish
Now that the weather is warm get outside and start experimenting with these skills. Prepping doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Practicing these skills is a great way to get your family and friends involved and make practical survival skills into regular events.