Monday, October 13, 2014

Natural Fire Starting Materials

 What did you do when the moon did its eclipse thing? Sleep? I'm sorry, you missed a beautiful sight. I admit I was tempted, 4:00 am is early and Kirk was off so conceivably we could have slept in. Not only did I get up at four but I got up several time before that. You would have thought it was Christmas. I went out on the deck to check because I missed the strawberry moon because I got up at the wrong time. I'm like that. Sometimes I get messed up. I wasn't about to miss this.

Alas, we only got a half eclipse. What was up with that I don't know. Must have been because of where we live. We watched from the deck slipping in and out of the sliding glass doors because it was chilly and we were too lazy to get dressed. Besides the warm bed just a few feet away kept calling to us. We just had to obey. Then to our delight, the moon slipped low enough in the sky that we could watch while laying under the warm covers. It doesn't get better than that.

After the eclipse, I was torn between going back to sleep and getting up for a stroll in the early morning light. The moon was suppose to set and the sun rise at the same time. Probably not going to happen here as we figured the moon would be behind the mountain before the sun came up but a rosy glow on both horizons would still be a sight to see. Armed for bear, he's probably gone but I'm not sure about the mountain lion, we walked to the valley below, a pistol in our pocket. Maybe not a bear gun but it made us feel safer. We could maybe scare a predator away at least or alert a neighbor to come and help. Ranchers get up early and so do most of the other neighbors who work elsewhere. At least by five am.
As we walked off our hill and descended down by the creek, I swear the temperature dropped a good ten to fifteen degrees. Heat rises and so we are warmer at times on the hill and since trees along the creek hold the cold it is indeed a chilly experience walking along it. The sight was worth it as the quaky aspen are decked out in twinkling gold with  red underbrush glowing in the warm early light. in the early morning light.

 I got to wondering about this cottony stuff as a fire starter as we studied the trees and brush. It is fire season you know. Ours is crackling behind me as I type. Not a fire in the stove every day time yet but now and then it gets a bit chilly. The grand kids are here for the weekend and they like the house warmer than grandma needs it. I'll admit I used lots of paper, some sawdust, and smaller wood to start the stove. But what if? My mind goes there often. A fire is essential to cook, stay warm, and for mental health in a survival situation. My knowledge of how to start a fire is pretty much limited to a match and a Bic lighter. Yes, I experimented  a little when I taught the Cub Scouts. We did the Ferro rod and battery with steel wool spark flying thing but I'm hardly a pro. I need to learn about tinder and a whole lot more.

One of my goals is to remedy that. Most survival conscious people carry matches, a Farro rod, and a Bic lighter with them most of the time but still it takes practice and knowledge to get the job done. Okay, maybe not so much with a Bic lighter but the Bic lighter will only last so.... long, it can be lost, or stolen and then where are you? If you have built many fires you know how many matches you can go through especially if the wind is blowing or not. I swear matches aren't what they use to be. I go through quite a few in my house starting the stove. They put only a drop of sulfur on the end of a little stick where as in my grandmothers day, and my childhood days, the matches were a whole lot better. The matches back then burned until they burned your fingers. Now, good luck getting them to stay lit at all. 
Even if you have a way to start a fire, what materials are best suited to start one with? Yes, I like paper too, even toilet paper but I'm keeping mine for just that, toilet paper. You might have noticed that Cody Lundin in his television shows, I've only seen a few, always picks up fire starting material as he is walking. Good idea but just what you are suppose to pick up is the question?

We were walking and so we picked up this cottonly like growth to try it out. Our choice of fire starter for this particular day was the Ferro rod. It sends lots of hot sparks. We were a bit surprised. The cottony stuff burned fa....st.

I mean really fast and then went out just as fast. No way was this going to start twigs on fire. We called our son, the fire starting guru of the family. He even has down the bow drill method. I guess the bow drill only works when the weather cooperates, not too humid and not too cold. Anyway, he advised us to ball up the cottony stuff in our fists before trying it the next time. He said the same holds true for cat tail fluff. Also that we needed to have another tinder underneath that was ready to catch on fire like some dried grass. He named off the temperature in which the Ferro rod sparks and he said that it was hotter than flint. He went on to teach us that certain materials burn better using a Ferro rod and others a flint. Well that was an eye opener. Aren't things always more complicated than they seem. Or is it just to me?

Our son recommended trying roughing up the bark on some sagebrush and trying the Ferro rod with it. He said it works well and we have lots of that. Got to try that. And he said that the cattails and this cottony stuff works better with the flint method as it is a cooler fire starter. It doesn't burn up quite so quickly. Got to try that too. After we try that we need to get some Old Man's Beard and experiment with it.Yeah, we have a great deal to learn. Good thing our son can be used as a sounding board for our experimentation. It will make the learning quicker.

I've learned that though you can ask questions and read until you think you know everything, there is still nothing like doing it over and over in different situations to move knowledge to the wisdom stage. In a survival situation muscle memory is critical. Your body needs to be able to do it automatically as you mind deals with the shocks and panic feeling of the situations. Our son might have said to bunch of the cat tail material and the cottony material but how bunched up works best. When you need it is not the time to learn it. 

But learning to start a fire with different methods isn't the end of Fire 101. I think we definitely need to learn more about stacking the wood in our fire. I want to try the big logs on the bottom, then smaller on top and smaller yet laid in a criss-cross pattern. Apparently the little fire burns and then on down to the big ones allowing it to burn a long time without stoking it. Pretty handy when it will be a long cold night and you need your rest. What kind of way works best in high winds? Hurricane flats up here last night had me playing musical beds. I was sleeping with one grand daughter but another came in when the wind stared to howl. With them off to sleep I slipped out to find less cramped quarters. The next bed I found didn't remain with just me in it for long as the youngest grand daughter by this time had woken up and gone looking for me to crawl in with. The wind can at times really whip it up. It wasn't just wind though. It was raining too. Does one fire stacking method work better with that situation? Hmmm. I know so little.

So much to learn and so little time to do it in. Oh well, a day at a time. The point is to just continue moving forward not relying on the ease of the modern world to always be there to care for us.

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