Tuesday, March 9, 2010

around the homestead -fetchin cooking wood

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.



  1. I have been enjoying your blog for a couple weeks now, especially the part about starting seeds in milk jugs or aquariums. I hope that this comment is taken as given from an open heart. Sorry to be a PC nag, but the word squaw is derogatory, maybe not ranked as highly as the N word, but still a sensitive point with Native Americans. And the phrase squaw wood can imply laziness, since it's deadfall and easy to gather (and therefore the squaws are lazy).

  2. no offense taken but i must say it is interesting, since this term for the wood came from my ex husbands family who lives on the reservation yet.. unfortunately in this day n age to be PC about everything, we would need complete silence the world over..

  3. LOL, a kindred spirit, my Dh shakes his head when we go for walks and I'm picking up dead wood, pinecones and I even break up and burn our sunflower, hollyhock and sunchoke stalks, this cleans up the old growth as well*wink*. All make excellent kindling for starting a fire or keeping a small fire burning. We too only cut down dead trees, there are certainly enough dead trees that in the 15+ yrs we've been gathering firewood we've only cut down two live trees and those were upon request of a friend. People enjoy us cleaning up their deadfall, it keeps their tree areas healthier.
    Thanks for sharing and you know what I'm not PC and nor will I ever be. Now I don't use poor choice words( unless anger takes control*grimmice*) I don't think that any Indian would take offense at your choice of squaw wood, I took it for what it was intended, the squaws gatehred small wood for fires. It never entered my mind that it was inferring laziness, but rather being thrifty,frugal, using what is readily avaliable.