Before modern civilization became inundated with distractions like television, internet and ways to fill the time, there was fire. Long after humanity, there will be fire.
During the parched summer months, we know how dangerous the tiniest spark can be in Central Oregon. However, building and enjoying a fire is the best part of our frigid winters!
In my family we have two Girl Scouts. Actually, make it three because my wife is the troop leader. She teaches the girls about safety, how to build a fire and how to cook outdoors. Getting them involved in the process builds skills and creates a connection to nature. Here's how we do it.
First, we find a good, clear spot on the ground away from anything flammable. We make a circle of stones or use some type of premade fire pit.
Next, we explain the three elements necessary to get a good fire going: fuel, oxygen and heat. The fuel begins with tinder, so the kids gather small bits of bark, leaves, twigs, pine needles and the like. Cotton or hemp rope and twine can be used as well. We add kindling and slowly work our way up to larger sticks, logs and such. Dry and dead materials work best.
Oxygen – we fashion a teepee-style structure with the kindling. creating openings to place the tinder inside but leaving space to allow air in. The easiest part, the heat, is usually produced with a lighter or matches these days, and with the dry conditions of Central Oregon, it does not take much to get the flames going!
Cooking time! Roasting marshmallows, making s'mores and cooking hot dogs are usually favorites, but why stop there?
Familiar with banana boats? To make this tasty treat take a banana, cut a wedge down the center lengthwise, carefully stuff marshmallows and chocolate inside, wrap in foil and set it in the coals of the fire. In minutes, you will be glad I shared this secret.
What about tiny cobblers? Take a tuna can, add some pie filling, a bit of yellow cake mix and a pat of butter. Wrap in aluminum foil and let sit in the hot coals for a bit. Yummy!
Obviously, the most important part of this discussion is safety. When a fire is going, it's important to keep a healthy distance and have no horseplay or running nearby. Have a water hose or a large bucket of water nearby. Do not leave it unattended for any length of time and when the fun is over, be sure to put it out completely. If the embers are not completely extinguished, an unexpected wind could rekindle the flames. So, when you think you've poured enough water, pour a little more.
This winter, whether sitting quietly in front of a small warming fire or a big bonfire with friends or family, be safe, smart and have fun! Sitting around those magical flames is the type of entertainment and experience our ancestors have been sharing since the beginning of time.