More about firepits
by Winyan Staz Wakien
(Washington State, USA)
Whenever you can,take the time to carefully dig out a circle of top soil BEFORE you build your firepit and place the topsoil to one side. Try not to disturb the tiny plants ect too much in the top soil you dig out as you will be returning it when you leave.
When you are leaving the area, scatter your rocks around far away from the pit area and take the time to recover the soil with the top soil you dug out. The land will heal much faster and you will leave far less footprints/sign you have ever been there.
There is also no reason not to take the time to make your firepit better to not only reflect more heat for your needs but also to control the smoke blowing in everyone's face. It is simple enough to do.
If possible, build close to the base of a cliff or large rock to have a natural heat reflector with little to no effort. If that isn't possible, simply build a wall of rocks on the backside of your fire ring approximatly 3x's as tall as the rocks in your fire ring.
Another way to make a heat reflector is by angling two large sticks about 4-5 feet apart.. one point deep in the ground, the other leaning slightly towards the fire. Cut enough posts or find enough sticks to pile up the back side of your two angled sticks to form a slightly forward angles wall. You want it to be aproximatly at least waist high to reflect the most heat. Don't put it too close or make your fire so big you start your reflector wall on fire. :)
For cooking.. making a key-hole shape firepit will enable you to have a spot to rake coals into and since it is narrow and long.. you can easily balance pots etc on it for cooking.
Remember if you have no other way to keep warm you can make a longer trench in your "keyhole fireplace" to rake the coals into, cover the coals with dirt or sand and sleep on top to stay warm at night.
If your going to be there long term, take the time to make an "Chippawa kitchen" which is a counter level cooking platform, easily made with small (preferably green) saplings. Dig small holes to place the legs into to help make it level and sturdy. Make it like a very tall saw horse and about waist level, place a long sturdy pole on both sides of the long side of your "sawhorse" shape.
Using smaller branches/sticks placed across your long poles, make a table top/shelf at waist height.. aproximatly 1/3 to half the length of your two poles. That will enable you to build a fire under the half that has no tabletop/shelf. On the side you have build your table top/shelf cover it a couple of inches deep with moss or grasses and or ferns and then slather on an aproximatly 6-8 inch layer of clay if you can find it...or mud if you cant. Using your hands or the bottom of a large pot... press a hole into the mud/clay to put in your fire coals for easy cooking without all that bending over.
You can also use a hobo stove at that level instead of using coals. You could easily build a small fire in the cooking hole as well.
You can hang cooking untensils and or clothing to dry from the top of your rack/saw horse. You can also hang a hook or line from the top of your rack/saw horse to dangle your cooking pots over the top of the larger fire on the ground. Here is a link I found showing exactly how to make one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6m_uZcwFH4
Keeping fires small and using only dry sticks and wood will keep the smoke down.
For a cooking fire in a hurry use only the small dry sticks as they will burn hotter and faster.
ALWAYS be sure your fire is dead out unless someone is staying up to watch the fire. By far, the majority of all forest fires started by humans is from someone going to sleep with the campfire burning or leaving before the fire is dead out. NO smoke or burning coals left please.
Again... cover your charcoal/firepit with the topsoil you set aside earlier as you leave when ever possible to enable the land and plants to heal quickly.
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