Tag Archives: Outdoors

Campfire Cooking with Kids

Campfire Cooking With Kids

The kids are learning to cook over a campfire.  This has been an ongoing learning adventure for several months now.   We have tried several different methods for starting fires, making our own camp stoves, as well as different ways of making the campfire pit.

After trying several different arrangements, we came up with one we like the most and have kept for several months now. We use it once or twice a week as the weather and time permits.  We really enjoy afternoons and evenings around the campfire.

We started off with simple learning techniques like where to build a fire safely, how to start a fire (matches, lighter, flint, feroconiom rod), how to use different tinders (wood chips, small sticks, dead leaves, tree bark, dead grass and dry plants, cotton balls, cordage, clothing, etc) to get the fire going strong, locating where to gather wood safely, and learn how to split wood into small sizes for burning,  etc.

We built fire starter kits for the kids to keep and learn to use.  This has been a wonderful resource.  Our first kits were made with a salvaged bottle for storing, a few types of tinder, matches, and a feroconium rod and striker.  When they used up all the stuff in their first kits, we built new kits that include more of the first, but also added in a lighter, additional versions of strikers, fatwood, etc.  By far my son’s favorite method is starting a fire with his striker and a cotton ball.  We hope to build a bow drill and learn that method soon.

Once they mastered the art of starting a fire, we learned how to build a firepit.  Over time we built a few different arrangements of campfire pits.   This whole process has been a great learning experience for the kids and a fun way to spend family time together.

The current campfire pit version we are using is our favorite so far.  We found some old bricks someone had left behind from a construction project.  These are not the usual bricks you would want to build an outdoor kitchen with, but we are using what we have on hand and getting by with them for now.   We dug an “L” shaped hole in the ground and built a loose brick wall around the back side of the hole.  The back wall is tall, and the sides come part way around, then we have a short wall of bricks across the front as a fire stop and safety zone.  Safety is very important to keep in mind when you have an outdoor fire.

We also found some metal and an old grate someone had thrown away and used them as cooking surfaces by connecting them into the loose brick system above the fire to give us more ways we can cook food.   We also put a separate small wall about half way at the back.  This additional wall was needed to help support the grill top on one side and the metal bars on the other side and it also allows us to use either 1 side of the fire or both sides for cooking so we can make a bigger or smaller fire as desired.

Using a brick or rock wall on one side of your fire makes a lot of sense.  The bricks make a nice windbreak and help to retain the heat from the fire, and then help reflect the heat back towards the people sitting around the fire.   I plan to upgrade the pit with some special tiles for baking bread and pizzas on one side soon.  I found a local store that carries the fire tiles for break baking.  I am very excited about baking nice breads over the campfire. Maybe someday I can make a real outdoor pizza oven too.

The arrangement is large enough that we can choose to cook on the grill, the metal bars, flat rocks or bricks, or over the open fire and coals with roasting sticks or pans.  So we can cook up high or down low with several options as needed.  We made the pit so we can have a fire on one half, or just move hot coals over on one half while a hotter fire burns on the other half, or use the whole entire thing in a bigger campfire if desired.  With 8 people in the family, this arrangement gives us all enough room to gather in front of the fire and benefit from the heat being reflected back in our direction.

We let the fire die down and put it out before going into the house.  The next morning when the pit is nice and cool, the kids remove the ashes from their fire and sprinkle them on the location we plan to build our garden. The ashes will provide wonderful nutrients already broken down and released from the organic matter they were bound in for our plants to use.  We learned this trick many years ago when we used to heat our home with wood.

His New Wrought Iron Pan

Our 12 year old loves cooking on the campfire and would truly cook on it every day if he could.  He is the reason we got into the habit of cooking outside weekly.  He wants to try new things and master various skills.  After he gets his fire going, and his coals nice and hot, he usually cooks tea and different kinds of soups with his own stainless steel pot.   He has made potato soup, rice, chili, cheesy potato bacon soup, chicken noodle soup, and Ramon noodles.

He recently bought is own wrought iron skillet to expand his cuisine options. To start with he learned how to oil and season his new pan and care for it properly.  He also has his own knife and cutting board so he is ready to make lots of different things.  He is getting great practice and is learning to cook with his new skillet over the open fire.

This day we were cooking turkey burgers, beef hotdogs, sliced potatoes in foil packets, and he was making his own Cowboy BBQ Beans in his new iron skillet.

He had placed a brick over some coals next to the fire to hold his pan level while it cooked.  It took them no time at all to come to a rolling boil.  He had to pull his beans off the fire a few times and stir them to prevent them from sticking and burning in the pan.  His beans turned out very nice, the sugars caramelized and the beans had a hint of smoke flavor of the fire.

Almost everything was done cooking at the same time.  That is one of the blessings to having a large working space in this campfire with various spots to set the different foods we were cooking.

When his food was done, he combined his hotdog with his bbq beans for his own version of “beenie weenies”.   This was new for him as I haven’t fed the kids beenie weenies before, and he was excited to try them.

He was very pleased with how his “cowboy meal” turned out and thought he could handle making and eating this out on the open range bringing in the cows or up the side of a mountain while on a hike someday.  I hope to teach him to make either biscuits or bannock (old fashion cowboy or Indian bread) and chop up some wild greens to go with his meal next time.  He found some wild garlic growing in the yard that was already seven inches tall in February.  The plant looks like fresh chives and has a small bulb at the bottom when you pull it out of the ground.  He brushed the dirt off and tried it fresh.  It was spicy!  We also found a couple of violets in bloom in the front yard.  Soon the dandelions will set on some nice leaves for making a raw salad base or to use as a sauted spinach.  The pine trees are also budding and the baby pine buds are nutty and delicious and the needles make a nutritious tea.  We have a book he will be using this spring to locate various wild edibles that he can include to improve the nutrients in a meal such as this.

I am very proud of this young man’s achievements.  He gets an idea, puts his mind to it, and is not afraid to work toward his goal and see it through.  He is currently making a homemade longbow.  He has found the branch of wood, removed the bark, and carved it into the shape he desired.  He has yet to soak the wood and increase the arch slightly and locate the cordage he will be using.  I have no doubt he will reach his new goal.

Learning to cook over a campfire is a fun experience.  The skills learned and self confidence gained will benefit kids the rest of their life.

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Boys in the Woods

Well my boys are reaching a milestone in their journey to manhood.  This winter they have been adventuring into the woods to practice survival skills they have learned.  The older three are 12, 14, and 16 and have been learning many survival skills over the past few years.  There is also a an 8 year old and 5 year old following in their foot steps.  They’ve learned how to pitch a tent, make fire, cook food, chop wood, use an ax, use a hatchet, make various knots, use tools, shoot bow and arrows, shoot a shot gun, butcher a deer, catch fish, and build a camp site.

Though they all enjoy being outside, the 14 year old is the most outdoor loving fella of the older three and his passion for nature has inspired the others.  You just can’t hardly keep him indoors.  He decided a few weeks ago that he wanted to start his own You-tube channel with his brothers, and he is still toying with the idea of writing a website.  He would love to write reviews of outdoor gear and tools and trucks if the opportunity opens up.

 

The boys have tossed around a few different names like the Horseless Cowboys,  the Backyard Boys, and Boys In The Woods.  Not sure what the final name will be just yet, but they plan to document their adventures. Some of their adventures are “in the woods” and some are “in the backyard”. Our yard is surrounded by woods, where one ends the other begins.  We also live about 1 mile from a lake where we enjoy fishing and hiking and playing at the park.  Still working on the name.  They decided to do a series called “Backyard Camping”.

His first video was walking the woods to locate the fallen tree he heard crash during a storm.  It was a fun adventure as he came to various fallen trees spread throughout the 8 acres we live on.  He also crossed a small stream and checked water depth along the path after the storm.

A few days later he went back into the woods to scout out a place for a camp site.  He found a couple locations he liked.  We went out and helped him clean up one of the locations, removing several layers of dead fallen leaves and some dead wood that was in the way.

This particular location gets a few minutes of morning sunshine currently as there are no leaves on the trees yet this time of year.  We are not sure if it will get any sun once the leaves return as it is a densely wooded location.  We are concerned about having a camp fire in that location , so for now, he must use the grassy area of the backyard for his campfires where it is safer. That’s one of the reasons he dedicated the series to backyard camping to inspire other kids to get outside and camp in their yard too.

The next video he made was about making a small bait trap at a nearby lake.  We took the boys to the lake to fish and we were able to buy worms, but the bait shop was out of minnows.

So he and his brother decided to catch their own minnows and small bait to fish.  They used a plastic bottle, pocket knife, a few rocks, a worm, and fishing line.  They created a trap to catch minnows and crawdads.

The next video he vlogged about making dry tinder to start a fire.  Then he showed how to use his striker and rod to create a spark to start the fire.

He built a spot to have a fire surrounded with rocks we have laying around in the woods.  They were very pretty rocks most of them being white quartz that is abundant everywhere.   Then he used his tinder and small branches and wood he chopped to create a camp fire.  Next on his camp fire embers he cooked his supper.  He cooked a can of beef noodle stew and boiled water in a steel cup to make chicken noodle soup.

At the end of the day, these boys are learning and practicing great skills for their future.  They are looking forward to their next outdoor adventure in the woods.

 

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Sunset At The Beach

Have you ever watched the setting of the sun at the beach?

It is such a beautiful site.

We spent a November evening on a North Carolina beach watching the sun go down.

The Fall air was cool and crisp, but we didn’t let that hinder our joy.

There is something very special and exciting about being at the water’s edge.

The colors in the sky were beautiful!

The smell of the ocean and the sensation of breathing in the salty air is a completely different experience than our day to day experience.  If feels energizing, like it is renewing something inside the body and the mind.

I could watch the ocean and sky for hours and never get tired of the view.

The sand feels amazing and was cool to the touch.  We collected some seashells along the beach.

We saw a flock of pelicans flying above us.

Even though it was chilly, we decided to get our feet wet.

We tried to catch the waves coming into the shore.

The waves and the pull of the under tow current were quite powerful and knocked us off our feet several times.

One fella didn’t want to get wet.  He said it was too cold.

But the rest of the group was eager to get wet from head to toe even though we only agreed to get our “feet” wet.

Even though the water was cold and the current was strong, I enjoyed getting my feet in the water too.  The waves kept a constant rhythm with perfect timing.

It felt so peaceful.

We enjoyed an evening walk on the beach and walked to a fishing peer not far from where we played.

The sun set was stunning behind the peer.

It gave the appearance of a glowing fire off in the distance.

The fishing peer went out so far and then was blocked at the end.  It seemed as if the peer would have gone further, but perhaps had been lost in a storm.

Even though a major hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, had come through days earlier,  the rest of the peer was still in good standing and many folks were using it for fishing and enjoying the evening.

I loved the contrast of the peer and the evening sky and ocean waves.

You could sense the determination of this peer to withstand whatever the elements of nature could beat it with.

The structure seemed to rebel against the constant waves, the salty air, and the gusts of wind.

The setting sun was gorgeous!  It peered through the dark clouds sandwiched between the sky and the water.

This experience reminds us of what it might of been like at the beginning. The bible talks about the beginning.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:1-10

Looking away from the sun, in the opposite direction, the sky and the water seemed to be a reflection of each other, a matching blue that seemed to go on forever.

But looking towards the sunset, the colors were vibrant and seemed layered like a rainbow that had been deconstructed.


Sitting above the waves, felts as if we were sitting on them.   Resting on the benches of the peer was a special experience. 

The peer puts you out on the water, away from the shore.

Though you are sitting still, everything around you is in motion and has a rhythm of it’s own.  Everything is moving with a beat, the water, the sky, the salty air on your face, and the sound it all makes has a nourishing rhythm that feeds the soul.

All your senses are enhanced and focused on the beat, the soothing sound of the moving water and the amazing colors of the sky.


After we watched the sun set, we walked up the beach a little bit further for some food.  Later we came back outside to watch the beach in the darkness.

We sat on the steps of a small gazebo looking out over the water.  It was so peaceful.

A long way out, there was a small twinkle of light from ships on the water. 

We could also see the lights of the fishing peer reflect on the water.

But otherwise, we could no longer depend on our eyes to understand our environment.  We could not see the sky, and we could not see the water, we could only sense they were still there in the darkness.

Instead of using our eyes, we tuned our ears to the sounds of the night.  All we could hear was the familiar sound of the waves hitting the beach in a soothing rhythm.  It was peaceful.

The older kids and I wanted to stay outside all night, but the younger kids and daddy were getting sleepy, so it was time to head inside.  Bedtime seemed to come too quickly, yet we welcomed the end of this day feeling relaxed and renewed.

We definitely want to experience the sun setting on the beach again soon.

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Fit Made Fun Day

Disclaimer: I recieved free products in order to host the LeapBand, Clif Kid sponsored MommyParties and participate virtually with the National Fit Made Fun Day. All opinions expressed here are my own.”

We had a great time joining in to help beat the Guiness World Record for the National Fit Made Fun Day on Saturday September 6, 2014!

We recieved a party kit with ideas and included were 2 Leap Frog LeapBands for kids to use for activities, and three flavors of Cliff Kid Zbar Protein Bars to enjoy during the event.

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We had arranged to have our Fit Made Fun Party at the local park, but we got rained out of our festivities.  I was worried we would miss getting to join in on this National celebration to break the world record of kids all over the USA getting active on the same day.   I thought we would have to reschedule until the following day, and I kept watching the weather.

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Finally by late afternoon, things began to dry out some and we were able to have fun games and activities outside in the yard instead of the park.  Better late (in the afternoon) than never!

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We activated the LeapBands ahead of the party.  I also printed out several games from http://www.leapfrog.com/en-us/learning-path/leapband-party-planning-guide.html with more game ideas, board games, coloring pages, activity cards, and more.

The Leapbands must be registered and activated online ahead of time. The creates access to a dashboard that keeps a cynced record of their activities recorded by the LeapBands.  The process is automatic each time you connect the LeapBands to the computer and allows you to change the settings of when they are active, sleeping, at school, etc if desired, and also recharges the LeapBand so it is full of energy.

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The kids couldn’t wait to put on their LeapBands and get busy following along with the instructions for activities.  They earned Joules for each activity they completed.  Later we connected them again to the computer after we were done using them for the day, the Joules they earned and information about their activities was transferred to their computer dashboard.

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LeapBand is a wearable activity tracker that talks to kids, keeps track of movement, and records their answers to games.  It is kind of cross between a pedometer, a watch, and an activity gaming console all wrapped up in one.  It encourages kids to get active with 50 preprogramed games and activities for endless hours of fun.  It also has virtual pet pals. They earn points called Joules for moving and being active. They can see the points they earned right on the face of the LeapBand. The more points they earn, they can unlock new levels in the games and also earn rewards for their virtual pet pals.

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We had water bottles and Clif Kid Zbar Protein bars on hand for rehydration and energy.  We also made Turkey Pita sandwhiches and had fresh strawberries.  The kid’s favorite snack was the Clif Kid Zbar Protein bars.  They are delicious. We tried the Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Mint, and Peanut Butter.

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Our absolute favorite flavor was Peanut Butter. They taste like a cross between a candy bar and a granola bar.

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But we honestly liked all the flavors. My personal favorite was the Chocolate Mint.  I was surprised how delicious and satisfying it was. Definitely passed for both kids and adults.

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As part of the National Fit Made Fun Party participation with kids nationwide, we spent 10 minutes doing the “Snorkel Dance”, 10 minutes rolling around in the grass making “Grass Angels”,  and 10 minutes playing “Follow The Leader”. We played games like “Frogs on the Lily Pads”,  “Healthy Habits Hunt”, and “Relay Races”. The kids had so much fun doing cartwheels, dancing, and hopping around.

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They made grass angels (like snow angles), did a swim dance, flew around like birds, and before I knew it, they were doing flips upside down on their hands in the grass too.

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They were having so much fun, they decided to take advantage of the little bit of sunlight left in the evening to climb trees and take a nature walk too.

Up the tree with LeapBand.

At the end of the party, everyone received a participation certificate. We had so much fun! We are already looking forward to joining the National Fit Made Fun Day again next year and hope we can help them set the next Guiness World Records!

Disclaimer:  We were provided a party kit with LeapBand and Clif Kid products in exchange for an honest review and for the purpose of facilitating a Fit Made Fun Day party sponsored by LeapFrog and MommyParties.  All opinions expressed are my own honest opinion.

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