Ahhh, yes, it's that time of year again when we begin combing our little piece of heaven on earth for dead fall or as some of us like to call it, squaw wood. Squaw wood are the dead limbs and branches that fall from the trees through out the year and litter up the forest floor.They are easy to come by and generally burn well since they are already dead before falling. Usually by autumn of each year our dead fall pickings are slim since this is what we use to cook with from mid March until November. By the time spring comes around again we have a replenished supply of firewood within easy walking and hauling distance to the stove.
We try and keep a good selection of sizes ranging from tiny twigs to limbs about the size of a wrist around to cook with. This allows us to be able to regulate the fire temps under the cook top to better suit what we are cooking. Since wood is all we use to do all of our cooking on it is also important to keep a supply of ready to use wood on hand and out of the weather. Dry wood is much easier and less frustrating to cook with than wood that has been rained on for five consecutive days. Although we do not use a lot of wood in a given week it is still a time consuming task that takes about two hours from start to finish. We would use a lot more wood if we cooked large meals on it every day but I try and do a one day a week large cooking day and then just need short quick fires through out the week to make new dishes from those I have already cooked, to reheat things and make side dishes.We do try to only use the stove once a day for cooking and opt to use the microwave while we still have power and a microwave that works. We also use a small fuel stove to make morning coffee. While we willingly step back in some ways, I would prefer to have my morning coffee before I take that step back each day. This is not the wood that we use for the oven in these pictures. This is solely for the cook top side.
Gathering the wood for cooking is one of my favorite chores here. I enjoy going for short walks and then on my way back I gather wood as I go and stack it at the end of the shack until wood breaking day. One nice thing is that for the most part we don't have to be picky about the type of wood we use for the cook top. smoke chamber is separate from where food is cooked so we can utilize much of the fallen pine that would otherwise go to waste.
Here's a "survival in the woods" trick...For fire starter we use pine cones and snaps or pencil-thick and thinner branches on the bottom trunk of a spruce tree or other conifer. They stay dry in rainy weather, are easy to snap off and gather by hand and they make excellent tinder for starting a fire. The tiniest of the tiniest twigs snapped into 3 or 4 inch snaps will light with a match then slowly add slightly larger twigs until you work you way up to the pencil size, by then your fire is a guarantee. With a little bit of practice, you should never need any other jazzy fire starters again.