FIRES FOR COOKING
There are a lot of little helpful wrinkles regularly used by woodsmen that can hardly be imparted to the green-hand because of their number, their insignificance, and the fact that each must be adapted to the prevailing condition, but they immediately brand the user as an old hand at the game. They are simply the result of experience and are used almost unconsciously. I refer to such things as the manner of placing wood on the fire, handling embers, moving cooking utensils, etc. It is the knowledge of how to do such little things as this that makes the work of the expert look so easy and run along so smoothly, while Mr. Amateur is having all kinds of trouble. There is no way to acquire this knowledge except by long experience, or by working in company with one who has "been there."
I know a way of building a very good combination heating and cooking fire, which may be used during rainy weather more satisfactorily than any other kind with which I am acquainted. Two small green logs about five feet long, are placed side by side about twenty inches apart. Two shorter logs are then placed across the ends and another five-foot log laid lengthwise on top. The fire is built between the two bottom logs and directly under the one which has been placed on top. Then pieces of green wood are stood up against one side so that they rest against the top and one of the bottom logs. This forms a roof over the fire and the cooking is done over the open front, between the logs. The roof burns away slowly on the under side and as the sticks burn off they are added to the fire beneath and others placed on top to keep the roof built up. This is a good style of fire to reflect heat into the camp and is excellent for use with a metal baker.
The regulation method of building a fire for heating an open-camp is to place it against a large green log, or against a ledge of rock, a wall of stones built up artificially, or a pile of short green logs resting against two stakes which have been driven at a slight incline. The fire burns best when there are two short pieces of wood placed crosswise on the ground on which the fuel may rest and leave an opening for draft beneath. Green wood is best for holding fire; but it must be mixed with good dry wood, or it will not burn well. The selection of wood for the camp-fire is important. Standing dead trees are always drier than those which have fallen, unless the fallen trees are held up sufficiently above the ground to keep them well dried. Wood cut on low, damp ground is not as good as that found on higher places and usually pops and throw sparks into the blankets, which makes it objectionable.
Almost all kinds of dry, hard wood burn readily and throw off plenty of heat. They also burn to embers and hard wood therefore should be selected when a bed of live coals is needed. Of the soft wood dry pine and cedar burn freely, but are consumed quickly, leave no embers and make a lot of smoke. They are excellent wood for kindling and for use in connection with green, hard wood. Green pine, cedar, fir and tamarack burn slowly and require much dry wood to help keep them burning. White birch is excellent for camp-fires; dry or green and dry tamarack is one of the best of camp-fire woods.
There are various woods that answer well for kindling and the camper must always find something that will be good for this purpose. Dry white-pine and cedar shavings and splints light readily from the match, but dead "fat" pine is much better. Pine knots, remaining after the log has rotted away, when split are heavy and yellow with dried pitch and if split into splinters will burn like oil. An old pine log is often in the same condition, and if the camper can find any wood of this kind he should take some to camp so that he will not need to hunt about for a suitable wood for starting a fire. In the north where there is little pine timber such kindling is scarce; but nature has provided an excellent substitute in white-birch bark. The loose bark hanging to the tree trunks contains an oil which causes it to light readily from the match and burn with a bright flame and a hissing noise. When traveling in the northern bush during cold weather I frequently carried a bunch of birch bark in the top of my pack, so that if I wanted to build a fire quickly I would not have to hunt for kindling.
There is one more woodcraft trick that I think everybody who goes into the woods should know. While the woodsman invariably carries an axe with which to cut firewood, there may come a time when he has no axe and is obliged to camp out over night. Then getting together sufficient wood to keep fire over night is a real problem. Sometimes he can find a place where one tree has fallen across another, or if not, perhaps he can throw one over the other, and at the place where they cross he should build his fire. Then when the logs burn through he can move them and either keep shoving the ends into the fire as they burn away, or perhaps cross the pieces again and burn them into shorter and lighter pieces which can be handle readily.
In building any kind of a fire the camp; should remember that flame naturally mow; upward, so that the wood should be lighted from beneath. It is hard to get a fire starter in any other way. He should also remember that the wind drives the fire forward and should light the wood under the windward side. The finest kindling should be placed first, then fine split dry wood on top, coarser wood on top of this, etc. The heavy wood should never rest too much on the kindling or the latter will be crushed down into such a dense mass that it will not burn and the wood must never be placed so that the sticks fit closely together; a crisscross style is much better. These are all simple little rules and easy to remember, but it is necessary to know them that camp-fire troubles may be avoided.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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