Getting outside during the winter for extended periods of time with the kids can sometimes be challenging- even in what I consider to be a fairly moderate climate comparatively to the rest of our country. Rainy days can seem dreary, and clear days can feel surprising frozen on our noses and toes, unless movement is constant. In this past clear, cold spell of weather, myself and a few families were invited to spend an afternoon at a farm, lighting a fire together and cooking some food, as well as explore the surrounding forest and learning to make charcoal burned cedar spoons with a wonderful member of the community, Emily. Thanks so much to Roz and her family, who are in our community of homeschoolers, for organizing this day for everyone!
First we went through the steps of lighting a fire without the use of paper. Emily brought some pieces of dry cedar, and the kids took turns using their knives to make a pile of cedar shavings that would be the fire starter. Then they split kindling from the cedar, and set that close by with other larger pieces of fire wood that were collected nearby. Our warm fire got going rather quickly, and we set a variety of foil wrapped veggies into the fire to get them cooking while the kids went with Emily to learn some compass skills in the forest.
When they returned, the coals were good and hot and we opened the foil veggies. Roz brought a batch of bannock dough, which we wrapped around sticks and roasted in the fire. We discovered a large apple tree still loaded with apples, which turned out to be all rather frozen, but which baked up beautifully when one of the kids wrapped some bannock dough around the chopped frozen apples and put it in the fire inside some foil. It was the best campfire apple pie we had ever had!
As we finished eating, Emily demonstrated how to make a cedar spoon by using pieces of charcoal to burn out the scoop. It needed lots of careful handling to maneuver a coal out of the fire and onto the flat end of a piece of cedar quickly enough so that once it was clamped in place with another piece of wood, the coal would still have a red ember when it was gently blown upon. Sometimes the coal would go out, and another one had to be picked out of the fire, or sometimes a rest for the blower was needed, and so another coal was exchanged. As the hole in the spoon got deeper, a smaller coal could be used to burn into the bottom of the scoop without adding anymore width.
Once we got home, there was lots of whittling, carving and sanding to do to shape the rest of the spoon.
It was soon evident that this was a very meditative and patient sort of process, with lots of deep breathing and focused attention on the glowing embers. Being in close proximity to the hot fire kept everyone warm, even as the crisp air refreshed our beings with so much oxygen. A few hours later, as I packed up our things and we put the fire out, I wandered back across the fields in a happy state of feeling connected to the land around me, to the group of kids and adults with me, and to myself in this place and time of life. Throughout so many ongoing fluctuations and shifts, this was a perfect afternoon to be reminded of such constant, simple, and important states of being that carry me along.