Collecting little sticks.

pack basket for hauling little sticksHere is my pack basket.  It’s a Cabelas Alaskan pack-board and an 11 gallon washtub.   I use it to walk around and pick up little sticks and cow patties for my fire.  Then I store the sticks under a big fir tree outside my cabin.

I have a pickup, a good chainsaw and a bunch of dead trees on my property to cut down but that is so unpleasant to me.  Picking up sticks is what I really like and the fires they make are so much hotter than what you get from logs.

When I wake up, in winter, my cabin is usually around freezing.   If I make a fire with logs, 4 hours later, sometimes, it’s only 50 degrees F (10C).   If I make a fire with little sticks,  in 1/2 an hour it will be toasty; then I throw a log on the fire and keep it that way.

It’s a joy to walk around picking up sticks  with my pack basket and  I can pretend I’m in training for a big hike.

Related post: Stove thermometer

Cabin eating.

my food collectionA reader left a comment  wondering what food  I stock up on for winter.   So I thought I would make it into a blog post.

Last winter I ate “super oats” every day.   My “super oats” are: oatmeal, black-strap molasses, nuts, cut up apple, raisins, cinnamon, soy protein powder, iodized salt.  I also had a grapefruit everyday.

Sometimes that is all I would eat but  often I would also eat some spaghetti sauce, fresh lemon in my cal-mag fizz, a banana, broccoli and a carrot.   That was pretty much my diet for the entire winter.

There is a little log cabin store that is a 2.5 mile walk through the woods where I can get some fresh food  now that a couple of old hippies bought it.    I like the experience of not seeing anyone,  so I try to avoid going to the little store.

I’m kind of tired of oatmeal this year.   This morning I made myself a pot of oats and I didn’t eat it.  Probably because I had lots of other kinds of food besides oatmeal.

Here is what food I have for this winter:

Rice, beans, lentils, oats, pasta, peanut butter, canned beans, canned corn, lots of spaghetti sauce, salsa, nuts, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, fresh garlic and garlic powder,  fresh ginger, red pepper flakes, black-strap molasses, lots of tea, potatoes, onions, multivitamins and some other supplements , cal-mag fizz, box of apples, grapefruits, lemons,   “Better than bullion” chicken soup base, canned soup,  raisins, eggs, soy protein powder, tuna.   I also have a bunch of broccoli seeds that I thought I would try to sprout.  I wanted some canned pineapple but I forgot it.

I  have some other fruit and veggies but they will have to be replenished often because I don’t have any cold storage.

My son sent me a little lettuce growing kit last winter, everyday I would nibble on some lettuce, maybe I will get that planted again.

Last winter I didn’t eat from 12 noon till dawn the following day.    It’s a Buddhist practice aimed at giving up your attachment to eating but if not done with the right might set can increase your attachment to eating.  Even though I was working on my attachment to eating, I was  really joyous when dawn rolled around and it was time to eat my oatmeal.

I kept that practice up until spring.      This year I’d like to start it up again.  It’s amazing how little food you need if don’t eat after 12 noon.

Related Post: Delicious monotony

Wood for your tepee fire

When I go to to the barter faire, I volunteer to sit with people in the calm tepee.    It’s  nice in there.   There is a fire going in the middle that makes it warm and the light colored walls reflect the light from the fire, making it light inside as well.

There is never any smoke.   The guy who tends the fire says this is because he burns saskatoon(amelanchier) wood.  Saskatoon or serviceberry is native to every state  in the US except Hawaii and it grows on both sides of the Cascades.

Washing greasy pans without soap

baking sodaI usually use the no wash method of cleaning up but sometimes I end up with a frying pan or dishes to wash.    I never use soap because it takes a lot of water to rinse the soap off.    Instead I use baking soda.

One time I ran out of baking soda for awhile so I used wood ash instead–it worked.     To make soap you need grease and lye.  Lye is made from wood ash.  So,  mix the grease from the pan with wood ash and you have essentially  made soap.

Baking soda works under the same principal but it is safer on your skin.  Wood ash in water releases lye so you don’t want it getting in your eyes or sitting on your skin.

Trail food review: Chicken of the Sea smoked salmon

bad smoked salmonWalking through the grocery aisle I spied a new product, Chicken of the Sea smoked salmon, in little take along, no refrigeration pouches.

When I saw it I said, “Yes! I should get a bunch of this and I can be eating smoked salmon all winter long”    Good thing I had the good sense to buy just one and try it out first.

It’s nothing like smoked salmon; bad flavor and a bad texture.  So bad.

Cabin living.

Inside cabin at nightI obsess  over every little thing I put in my pack.   But cabin life is just the opposite.

Both of my cabins came furnished:  furniture, dishes, salt, foil, everything.    I never think about replacing anything.    That’s the thing about cabin life it’s not supposed to be perfect, you just do with what you have and it’s good enough.   There is something really settling about that.

When I had a house I was always thinking of things it needed and improvements I could make to it.   The list was endless.   In my cabin, if it works, it’s good enough.

On the trail and off—never wash another dish.

Backwood dishwasherLiving without running water is easy.   Truth is, it’s easier than with running water if you consider the time and money you have to spend on plumbing,  paying water bills, fixing pluming, worrying about it freezing, etc.     I don’t spend 10 minutes a week on water.

You just do things differently so you don’t waste any water.   Take for example making spaghetti:

no wash spaggetti

So you see, no washing, no wasted water.

Once in awhile I wash a few dishes but for the most part my system is:  1. Eat from pot, 2.  clean with spatula, 3. boil water in pot and use for hot beverage.

Related Post: A Vagabond’s guide to kitchenware and dish washing.

Cows shit firewood.

sticks and cow patties for my fires

Last year as I was walking around picking up sticks to store for kindling, I saw some dried cow patties and thought, “I think I remember something about people burning cow patties.”

I picked up some and threw it on my fire.  It’s amazing stuff;  burns hot and long.   I think I’d rather have a cord of cow patties than a cord of oak, it burned so well.

I was talking to a friend that just came back from India and she said people pick it up, dry it, and sell it over there for firewood.

I feel better about the cows roaming around my place now that I know they shit firewood.

Hauling water

Water delivery Where I live, lots of people haul water.   I see them at the community spigot in town filling large 55 gallon drums full of water.

1-3 gallons of water a day fulfills all my water needs, so, I just use 7 gallons water jugs with spigots that I got at Walmart in the camping aisle.  They cost about 10 dollars a piece.  They are very durable, I have been using mine for 2-3 years now.  I believe they are called, Reliance Aqua-Tainers.

One sits on my counter all the time.   When I melt snow I refill it by scooping out water from the snow melting pot.

In the summer, when one is empty I put in the back of my truck and when I go to town I fill it with water from the community spigot.    It’s easy, it only takes a few minutes.

Water carriers that aren’t so good:
  • One gallon plastic jugs are made to decompose in landfills quickly, making them not very durable.   Try the 3 liter Arrowhead bottles instead.
  • I tried the reusable 1 gallon jugs sold at the water filling stations in grocery stores—less durable than the disposable 1 gallon jugs.
  • The collapsible water jugs are not durable enough either.
55 gallon drum in loft gravity feeds to sink below.  I fill it using one gallon jugs and a funnel.   3 liter arrowhead water bottles are much studier.
Water storage. 55 gallon drum in loft gravity feeds to sink below. I fill it using one gallon jugs and a funnel. 3 liter Arrowhead water bottles are much studier.
Hot water heater
Hot water heater

Related post: living without running water

Free store

free signI’m heading up to BC for a bit and that means I’ll miss the local Barter Fair.   I don’t buy anything except food.   I usually just come and volunteer to sit with people in the calm tepee and  I leave a bunch of stuff at the free store.

I love the free store.    It’s a big covered area where you can bring stuff you want to give away.   There are hangers and shelves to display your wares.

No matter how hard I try,  I end up with too much stuff in my life, so, I have a rule that everyday I have to get rid of something.    When I lived in a house my rule was  that I had to get rid of 10 things a day because I had a lot more stuff.

It’s such a great feeling of abundance to give away your stuff.   There is more than enough stuff for everyone, if people would just let go of the stuff they aren’t using.

Up in BC there is a free store at the dump; that’s a good place for it.   People can give away good stuff instead of tossing it into the landfill.

I wish we had a year-round free store.   Where you can free up what you don’t need and take what you do; like the hiker boxes in the trail towns.

It’s sometimes hard for me to give away good stuff that I paid a bunch of money for but that’s the challenge.   Last year I gave away: an expensive sleeping bag, a z-rest, a therma-rest and chair kit, a sil-nylon poncho tarp, stuff sacks, a stove,  and a bunch of other things.   Everything I put in the free store got taken.

In my mind, wealth is measured by how much time a person has  and how few possessions they can own.

Related post: Moving Guide

Most essential tool for fixing propane appliances

can of airIf you have propane appliances, you should own a can of air. With a can of air you will be able to fix a non-working propane appliance 99% of the time.

In my BC cabin I have a propane refrigerator, propane stove, and a propane hot-water-on-demand water heater.   In my Washington cabin I have  a propane Mr. Heater and a propane cooker.

Besides my propane cooker everyone of my propane appliances have quit working and was fixed by just blowing the dust, spider webs, and food out of it with a can of air.

Melting snow as your water source.

tools for melting snowI bought a big  “turkey fryer” setup  6 years ago at Costco; it  cost a hundred dollars.  I just wanted the 32 liter stainless steel pot and the turkey fryer set up was the cheapest way to get it.

I don’t know  how it fries turkeys but it is a marvelous snow melter and hot water heater.

  1. Fill the perforated basket with snow.  I use a pot to scoop up the snow into the basket.
  2. If your snow is really fluffy you will need to compress it.   I use the perforated thing on a stick that came with the pot; it fits perfectly into the perforated basket.
  3. Fill up perforated basket with some more snow, compress, and add more snow until basket is full.
  4. Drop big perforated basket  into partially filled big  pot on wood stove.   Instant water!

This is hoPot on wood stovew I got my water last winter and how I will get it this winter.   It’s so easy;  it takes less than a minute a day to harvest enough water for all my needs.

I keep a  small pot hanging near the wood stove to scoop out the hot water as needed.

This pot at amazon isn’t exactly what I have but close.


sweeperI bought this  sweeper because even though I have a vacuum for my cabin,  it  requires a generator to run it and  I left my generator at my other cabin.

This is just the thing for primitive cabin dwellers with carpets.    It works so simply and so well;  it never needs electricity, bags, or filters and doesn’t make noise–so elegant.

Note: Some Amazon reviewers had a hard time getting the handle to seat.  You put the handle together and then you bang it hard against the floor to seat it and then attach it to the sweeper.

Note to geeks:  Better than a Robo Vac!

Dirt cheap housing

dirt cheap housing

The earthbag house on the alternative housing tour was made with bags but the woman that built it said she it would have been easier if they had used the continuous fill tubes that sells.  While poking around  that site I found a cool article with accompanying pdf on how to build beautiful little dwellings with sandbags, barbed wire and a few hand tools.

What fun to go out in your back yard, play in the dirt and build a little dwelling.   If I wasn’t hiking this year, this is what I would be doing.