Sunday, November 09, 2008

No, frantic was me last week when I still had some time...

Now my deadlines are just days away, it's time to kick the caffeine/sugar/aspirin combo into maximum overdrive. Which, in light of giving double blood today, may not be a wise plan. On the other hand (I think I'm currently up to six, which is making the purchase of gloves expensive). I'm trying to finish pulling everything together for my first official Edible Wild Plants Class next weekend followed immediately by teaching a week-long course on the Chemistry of Acidizing. Yeah, so I'm a little stressed right now. On the plus side, part of the preps involved spending half of Saturday out at the beautiful Houston Arboretum. It was wonderful. I'm still amazed that such a spot exists here in Houston. Y'all should go there even if you aren't taking my class. You can't even tell a hurricane went through there except for the occasional giant, shattered tree trunks, lots of fresh wood chips on the paths, and the mass of sweaty Boy Scouts hauling piles of brush hither and yon.

Being in a teaching frame of mind I decided that it was time for Miniwether to learn how to build a campfire. The ability to INTENTIONALLY start and maintain a fire is a dying skill, suprisingly even among Boy Scouts. The concept of tinder->kindling->finger sticks->logs has been replaced by green wood->gasoline->emergency room. While somewhat entertaining to those outside the blast zone, singing songs and telling stories around a burn-victim's oxygen tent isn't nearly as satisfying as doing the same around the dancing flames of a well made fire.

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Step One: collect the wood. The jar on the left holds wax-paper candy wrappers that we use as tinder. They work great. Next to those are thin, dry twigs, followed by the larger finger-sticks (so called because they are about as thick as a finger).

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Step Two: lay the fire. We went with a classic "Tipi fire" where the twigs are stacked in a cone shape over the tinder. First the smallest twigs, then the sticks in each outer layer gets a little thicker.

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Step Three: lighting the match. We went through half a pack of paper matches but Miniwether couldn't get the technique down. She was starting to get frustrated so we switched over to Strike Anywhere wooden matches.

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Success!

At this point I helped guide Miniwether's hand/match down to the tinder. It burst into flames and within seconds the whole pile of wood was engulfed in fire. She was very suprised by this and it scared her a bit, which was a good thing. We had a serious talk about how fire can quickly get out of control, how there are lots of precautions one must take when making a fire, and why playing with fire inappropriately is a bad thing.

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Then we roasted marshmallows. Mambowether was asleep through all this. She's entering another growth spurt and that makes her tired and cranky (as opposed to just being cranky).

When we finished we poured a lot of water on the fire, stirred the ashes with a stick, then poured on more water. I didn't get any pictures of that, but here's a nice one of some of the resultant steam drifting away through our yard.

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A good place.

Word of warning to my dedicated readers. Posts are going to get a bit thin from now until probably after Thanksgiving due to everything I've got going. On the plus side, there are some adventures coming up that should be interesting. I'll continue to put up amusing videos and links that I find so you'll have something to see in the meantime.

Peace be with you.
-Merriwether

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