It’s been wonderful weather of late. Fall, in Kansas, is something that you’d wish would last the whole year. The temperatures slowly ease down a bit and the humidity goes south for the winter. We have not had a hard freeze yet, so the chiggers and flies and all their friends are still hanging around. You take the good with the bad.
Since we have given up the working life, hah!, we like to designate one day for something a bit more frivolous than say, sweating in the attic, pulling 12-2 wire. Lately, I’ve been getting back into living off the land. Bushcrafting, or just being handy outdoors has caught both our fancies. We have a lot of natural resources here on the prairie, with Black Walnut, Osage Orange and Hackberry trees, lots of native grasses, wild life for eating and so on. That’s just on our 20 acres.
Woke up this morning and it was going to be another glorious, warm fall day. I declared it Bushcraft Wednesday and today, we were going to channel our inner early French fur trapper, who mistakenly took a right turn at the Rockies and ended up on the west coast. As he arrived, the salmon were running and well, it’s important to nail down the details when you are channeling your inner crazy. The details will make your whole deal seem a bit more bizarre to anyone else observing you, but we can’t see any of our sparse neighbors and what’s the fun of life if you can’t imitate a Frenchie now and then?
Told the Mrs that we needed some salmon fillets and when she gave me the arched eyebrow of why, I merely made French noises and pointed to the campfire. She knew me well enough to not ask questions. It is hard to find that in a women. And she being a squeak French herself, this sounded like fun.
I have been acquiring a few essentials for when you need to go native in the bush. Got me a good knife, or I should say, another good knife. This one is a Ka-Bar Marine combat knife. It is very similar to what I had when I was a grunt. It is long, sharp and pointy and that works well for working in the bush. Got it sharpened up and that, along with a hatchet and a small folding wood saw, you pretty much have everything you need to bush work.
It is essential to learn how to make fire with something less than gasoline and a box of matches. I have a Ferrocerium rod, known to bush men as a ferro rod. You scrape the back sharp edge of your knife against the rod and sparks will fly off and start (hopefully) your tinder bird’s nest alight. Not always as easy as it sounds. Getting the right tinder material is a learning experience. Kansas has lots of dewey mornings that will harsh your fire starting mellow, if you don’t take care. The gold standard for fire starting is Birch. Which we don’t have in this part of Kansas, or for all I know, any part of Kansas. I have had to scrounge around to find something that will work and my answer is wood shavings from my wood working. Not something you’ll find in the wild, but until I get back up to Birch country, it’s my go to stuff for all my pyro needs.
Because we are mostly working with hardwoods here, it takes a while to get the fire going and a good coal bed for cooking. I started today’s fire at around 9:30AM and had some good coals about an hour later. Told the Mrs I needed to gather some materials at 10:30AM and grabbed my folding wood saw and headed off into our woods. Which means walk up the ridge, maybe 100 feet from the house, and find that Black Walnut that I cut down 2 years ago which now has a bunch of suckers growing out of the stump. I sawed up my material and headed back to the fire. Made 2 fish roasting sticks and their accoutrements. Basically something to hold the fish over the coals, about 12 to 16 inches above the heat. Also made 4 skewers for the fish and the whole deal took about 20 minutes to produce. Not too bad considering I was emulating a smelly French trapper. I stopped to scratch myself several times, just to stay in character.
Brought the skewers to the Mrs and found to my predictable disappointment that she was not wearing a French
tart Maid outfit. Since there were no analogs to a female traveling with the Trapper that weren’t Indian, I thought we could go with the next best thing. Apparently, I thought wrong. Anyway, skewered up the fish, brought them out to the fire and installed them on the roasting sticks. They would sit on a forked stick and be held down with another forked stick, upside down. The picture tells the tale. The fish just hang out, over the fire, while I flirt with the, well my wife, and mess with the fire.
Towards the end, we were getting hungry, so we both took the sticks and hand roasted the top side of the salmon. We had seasoned the fish with salt, pepper, Old Bay, Cayenne and Paprika. We pulled them off the fire and off the roasting sticks. First bite and it was worth all the work and wait. Really good!
For dessert, the Mrs sliced up some apples, got out our cast iron Dutch oven and put some lard in it. What? You don’t have lard? How do you make pie crust without lard? Haven’t you read all the latest science that fat and salt and all the things the government told you were bad, was bullsh*t and they are now good for you, like they always were. Get some lard and be healthy. We melted the lard in our Dutch oven, over the coals, on the tripod that is permanently installed over our fire. Took these apple slices, dredged them in a little flour, a pinch of salt, some really good Saigon cinnamon and some brown sugar. Fried them up until GBD (golden brown and delicious). Each piece tasted like apple pie. It was better than that smelly, probably toothless French trapper deserved.
I gave the wife a pinch on the hinder, a sure sign that she’d done good. She gave me a smile, a sure sign that I’d done good. This whole eating with sticks over a fire is tasting pretty good and will be a valuable skill if we are ever out of work and wait, this is starting to sound like our song.