Archive for the ‘non-electric’ Category

Facilities for Storage (from a USDA bulletin)

A variety of facilities can be built or adapted for home storage. The type of storage built depends upon the climate and the choice of the individual. Elaborate facilities for home storage are not practical unless outside temperatures during the winter average 30° F. or lower to permit proper cooling. The size of the storage space will vary according to family needs.

The principles for successful storage apply to all facilities. For example, the cooling of the storage space and maintenance of a desirable temperature depend upon the outside temperature, the manipulation of the ventilators, and the extent of insulation against undesirably high or low temperatures. Proper drainage and the exclusion of light and rodents are also important.

Storage in a Home Basement

A well-ventilated basement under a modern house with central heating can readily be adapted to home storage needs. The furnace room is an excellent place to cure sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squashes. After curing, however, these commodities should be moved to a cooler part of the basement. Temperatures in ordinary basements vary in different parts of the country. In basements, temperatures ranging from 60° to 70° F. in winter, when the furnace is in operation, and 70° to 80° in summer are perhaps average. While too warm for most commodities, the regular basement is satisfactory the year around for holding potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions for short periods, and for ripening tomatoes.

If the basement is to be used for winter storage, a corner should be partitioned off and insulated so that the storage space can be kept sufficiently cold. The storage room should be located preferably on the north or east side, and should not have heating ducts or pipes running through it. At least one window is necessary for cooling and ventilating. Two or more windows are desirable, especially if the room is divided for separate storage of fruits and vegetables. The windows should be darkened to protect the produce from light. They should also be boxed or shaded in such a way as to prevent the entrance of light even when they are open.

Bins may be used for storing certain commodities, but crates and boxes are preferred, as it is possible to remove them for cleaning. Equipping the storage room with shelves and a shitted floor keeps the containers off the floor and provides free air circulation. It also permits the use of water or wet materials, such as dampened sawdust, on the floor to raise the humidity.

Storage Cellar Under Home Without Central Heat

The old-fashioned cellar beneath a house without a central heating system has long been used successfully for winter storage of fruits and vegetables in the colder parts of the United States. The cellar usually has an outside entrance and a dirt floor. The outside doors serve as a means of ventilation and to regulate temperature. Some cellars have no windows, but if present they aid in ventilating and in temperature control. Windows are especially needed if the cellar has a partition to separate the fruit and vegetable compartments.

The precautions regarding light, drainage, and insulation described under “Storage in a Home Basement” also apply to the cellar under a house without central heat.

Outdoor Storage Facilities

Outdoor storage facilities can be constructed above ground or partly or entirely below ground. Cellars constructed below ground are superior because they can maintain a desirable temperature longer and more uniformly than any other type of home storage.

Outdoor storage facilities may be attached to the house or located in the yard or under an outbuilding. They should be convenient to the kitchen, and have proper drainage and insulation.

Underground Cellars

The structure of an underground cellar must be strong to support the weight of earth over the roof. Stone and masonry block in combination with concrete can be used, but a structure made entirely of reinforced concrete is best. A variety of plans can be developed. In the plan illustrated in figure 1, the cellar is attached to the house basement. This structure can also serve as a storm cellar or protective shelter against radioactive fallout in case of an emergency.

The whole structure, with the exception of the door, is covered with earth to prevent freezing. The thickness of the covering varies according to geographical location. In northern sections of the country, 2 to 3 feet may be necessary. Straw or fodder may be used for additional insulation if necessary. Wire screen over the outside ends of air intakes and ventilators will keep out birds and small animals.

Partly Underground Cellars

One type of cellar that can be used in certain northern sections of the country has walls of masonry that are partly below and partly above ground. Earth from the excavation is banked around the walls that are above the normal ground level and one end is left exposed for the door (fig. 2). As in other storage houses, an air inlet and a ventilator should be provided for each compartment, if there are more than one. Proper provision for ventilation is illustrated in figure 1. The double door is insulated.

Figure 1.—Longitudinal section and floor plan of concrete storage cellar that can also serve as a storm and fallout shelter.

Figure 2.—A partly underground storage cellar with stone walls and insulated frame roof.

Storage Above Ground

Aboveground storages can be built of masonry or lumber, but must be well insulated. Even masonry walls, regardless of thickness, have little insulating value. The following discussion is applicable where the climate is consistently cold, but where the average temperature- does not drop below freezing. Even in these climates the minimum temperature may drop to zero or below, and supplemental heat may be needed on very cold nights. Thermostatically controlled heat can be used if electricity is available. Only a small amount of heat is necessary to prevent subfreezing temperatures, and the storage temperature should be watched closely when low temperatures are predicted.

Hollow masonry construction such as cinder block provides the simplest means of installing insulation. Vermiculite, or some other dry granular material, can be put in the vertical channels formed by the alignment of the blocks as each course of block is laid. If cinder block is used, the inside and outside surfaces should be scrubbed with a cement grout to make them less porous. After the walls have been scrubbed with cement grout, the inside of the walls should be painted with aluminum paint to serve as a moisture barrier. Tar paper should be placed between the ceiling and joists as a moisture barrier, and at least 12 inches of dry sawdust or other granular material should be spread in the attic above the ceiling.

A frame building can be built of 2- by 4-inch studding and rafters. “Walls can be made tight by sheathing both the inside and outside of the frame with matched lumber. The space between the inside and outside sheathing should be insulated with loose fill or mineral wool blanket. Laminated kraft paper with asphalt between the layers, aluminum foil, or polyethylene should be placed between the insulation and inside sheathing as a moisture barrier. Building paper over the sheathing in the roof and outside walls is of great assistance in making the structure tight. The interior can then be painted with aluminum paint or whitewashed.

Ventilation for any aboveground storage building can be provided by the same type of roof flue and floor inlet that is recommended for concrete cellars (fig. 1).


Kinds of Fire and Their Uses

One of the important things about camping is a campfire. There are two kinds of campfires, the “warming up” fire, and the “cooking” fire. Of course there are others, such as the “smudge” to drive away mosquitoes, and the “friendship”—the kind you just like to sit around and talk or silently watch the flames shape themselves into fantastic forms. The most useful since man discovered fire is the cooking fire—flames for the pot and coal for the pan.

Select a sheltered and safe place to build your cooking fire, where no wind can blow it out or into the surrounding dry brush, ascertain the direction of the wind, and then build your fire so that the smoke will not blow into your face when you are doing the cooking. Next in importance is the wood. Certain kinds of wood, such as hickory, oak, beech, birch, hard maple, ash, elm, locust, longleaf pine, and cherry, have fairly high heat values, and laboratory tests show that one cord of seasoned wood of these species is equal to one ton of good coal. Short leaf maple, hemlock, sycamore, cedar, poplar, Norway pine, cypress, basswood, spruce, and white pine, have a comparatively low heat value. These woods ignite readily and give out a quick hot flame, but one that soon dies down. The principal disadvantage of the resinous, pines is their oily black smoke.

The woodsmen of British Columbia have a wood-chopping trick that keeps nicks out of the axe blade. When chopping the wood, instead of laying it on a block or on the ground where you have a chance to miss and put a nice nick in your axe, just stand it on end, holding it with the left hand at a convenient angle and strike a glancing blow into it, turning the branch till you have gone all the way round. It will then break with a blow from the head of the axe and you have a nice feathery end to catch fire easily.

You can make make what are called “fuzz-sticks” or “firelighters,” by taking a dry, resinous stick about an inch thick and shaving it with a good sharp knife into thin slivers, which remain on the stick. Three or four of the “fuzz-sticks” will insure the starting of a fire.

Gather dry twigs and dead branches and plenty of birch tinder. When the wood has been gathered and prepared, you are ready to begin building the fire. Time is saved by having everything on hand and within reach. Haste always wastes time in making a cooking fire.

The simplest and handiest all-round cooking fire is that made of two green logs laid parallel on the ground. Level off the top with an axe. Place them a few inches apart, so that a frying pan or coffee pot can rest upon both. Between the logs scrape a trench about six inches deep. In placing the wood in the trench, pile it in such a way that allows plenty of air space. Place several “fuzz-sticks” first, then dry twigs, and keep adding heavier wood as the fire progresses. When it is blazing well, start your water boiling. For broiling, or frying, or baking, scrape the hot ashes and live coals evenly, and you will have a wonderful fire for such purposes. Never add more fuel just before putting on your stuff to cook. Avoid too big a fire. Remember that you do not cook with flames, but with hot coals, which give a greater heat and one that is steady. Never use soft wood if you can get hard wood. Soft wood is smoky, covers the food with flaky soot, and produces a ruffled temper. A windbreak or fender will add to the convenience during chilly or windy weather.

A simple camp-fire crane that may be used in connection with any kind of an open fire can be made by cutting a sapling of hard wood about three inches in thickness. Drive sapling firmly into ground.

A common method of building a cooking fire is to take flat stones and put them together in a sort of fireplace. Grates may also be purchased for outdoor cooking. Toasted bread just reaches the right spot. A useful toaster can be made from flexible withes bent and tied in the shape similar to that of a miniature Wikiup. Bread will toast better when placed before glowing embers. Turn the bread frequently.

Making Fire Without Matches

There are three distinct ways of building a fire without matches. The simplest, but most difficult, is by the rubbing of two sticks or hand drills together; the second, by use of a bow drill, which is an improvement over the first, in that it gives a more rapid movement and increases the friction; and, third, by the use of flint and steel. Every good camper should be able to accomplish all three, and by all odds the last two.

Fig. 8 is a good illustration of the simplest sort of fire drill, one used by the Indians of Washington and the Northwest. Following is a description of the set, quoted by special permission from the Smithsonian Report, “Firemaking Apparatus in the United States National Museum,” by Dr. Walter Hough:

“It consists of a hearth, two drills, and a slow match. The hearth is a rounded piece of cedar wood; opposite the fire-holes, it is dressed flat, so as to rest firmly on the ground. There are three fire-holes with wide notches. The drills taper to each end, that is, are larger in the middle (Fig. 8). The powder, a fine brown dust, collects at the junction of the slot and fire-hole, where they form a lip, and there readily ignites. This side of the hearth is semi-decayed. No doubt the slots were cut in that side for the purpose of utilizing this quality. The drills are bulged toward the middle, thereby rendering it possible to give great pressure and at the same time rapid rotation without allowing the hands to slip down too rapidly, a fault in many fire drills. The slow-match is of frayed cedar bark, about a yard long, folded squarely together, and used section by section. Mr. Willoughby says:

“The stick with three cavities was placed upon the ground, the Indian kneeling and placing a knee upon each end. He placed one end of the smaller stick in one of the cavities, and, holding the other end between the palms of his hands, kept up a rapid, half-rotary motion, causing an amount of friction sufficient to produce fire. With this he lighted the end of the braided slowmatch of cedar bark. This was often carried for weeks thus ignited and held carefully beneath the blanket to protect it from wind and rain.’

“Fire is easily produced with this set. It takes but a slight effort to cause a wreath of aromatic smoke to curl up, and the friction easily grinds off a dark powder, which collects between the edges of the slot. When this ignites it drops down the slot in a little pellet, and falls upon the tinder placed below to receive it. Both drill and hearth are eighteen inches long.”

Fig. 9 shows a second set, reproduced from the same book, and shows the method the Indians used to keep the precious hearth dry. The entire length is carefully wrapped with a strip of taut buckskin.

Fig. 10, also from “Firemaking Apparatus in the United States National Museum,” and shows an interesting feature. The handle by which the hearth is fastened to the Indian’s belt also shows the spliced drill, the hardwood point spliced into a favorite or especially desirable handle.

Probably when the simple hand drill was used, the grinding of the powder was facilitated by adding a small pinch of fine sand to the bowl of the hearth.

The next method is that of intensifying the friction by means of using the bow drill. This is the more common method, and is found in general use, from the Indians of Alaska—who use bone instruments, except the hearth, which is usually white pine—to the Indians of South America. The principal law, however, is the same in all; only the material used changes with the locality. See Fig. 11.

Ernest Thompson Seton, the master of woodcraft, declares that the best results are obtainable by having the hearth and the drill of the same material. But others are not so agreed. There is one thing certain, however: the wood used must not be too hard nor too soft, but hard enough to make very fine brown grindings, and soft enough to make a sufficient quantity to hold the spark. The tinder and carefully prepared pile of slivers should be ready before the drill is set going.

No matter how carefully the process is described, you will never be able to make a fire without practice and personal experimentation. Study the cuts here reproduced, then adapt what you have to the principle. You are sure to succeed if persistent.

Third method, building fire with a flint and steel. Note carefully the implements in Fig. 12. To be successful you will need a select piece of absolutely dry punk wood, the longer the fibers the better, a piece of hard steel fashioned so as to get a good striking surface without injury to the hand (a large, stout jackknife can be made to work well), a selected piece of flint—it will take much experimenting to find just the right piece, but when found you have a prize. A small tin can may be used for a tinder horn, but the tip end of a cow’s horn is better and safer. Prepare the tinder, place it in the horn, then dash the sparks into it. When a tiny bit of smoke rises, blow carefully into a flame and apply the burning tinder to the twigs previously arranged for the fire. Anyone can become expert in this little trick with persistent effort. If not successful, ask some neighboring old-timer to come in and aid you until you see how it is done.

Things to Remember:

The sportsman in the field or mountains without matches can start his campfire by the aid of his shotgun. It has been successfully experimented upon and is both simple and feasible. First, make preparations to start your fire from the flame by building up your wood ready to light, standing kindlings up on end against the larger sticks wigwam fashion, leaving an opening at the bottom for the tinder, shredded bark, dry pine slivers or any dry splinter pounded between two rocks, any of which make good tinder. After removing the shot from the cartridge, sprinkle the most of the powder on the tinder, leaving only a few grains in the shell.

Then tear a bit of dry cotton cloth with fluffy edges (a bit of lining from your clothes if nothing else is available), fill this loosely into your emptied cartridge. Put the shell into your gun and fire straight into the air. The cloth will drop close to you and either be aflame, or at least smouldering, so that you can easily blow it into a blaze. Drop this quickly into your tinder and your fire is made.

The Scout Camp Fire

By L. B. Robbies

THE Innocent person who carelessly drops a smoldering match in the woods as he passes along is often the cause of one of the destructive forest fires which rage each dry season and burn thousands, yes, millions, of cords of wood. Yet, give that same person a half-dozen matches and a wheelbarrow load of firewood and the chances are he will have to beg for more matches before he can start a fire outdoors in proper fashion. The chances are his “fire” will start with a quick blaze, flicker and die out in a choking smudge.

Building a campfire means a great deal more than grabbing up a handful of dead leaves and a few twigs, piling them up in a scraggly heap and setting fire to them.

Instead, it means constructing a fire for its intended purpose, building it properly, and tending to it after it has once started. It takes only a glance at a camper’s fire to determine the kind of a woodsman he is.

Scouts are supposed to be versed in the art of woodcraft and many of them indeed are well schooled in its essentials with the exception of the campfire! That is usually the stumbling block. It is not simply a fair weather proposition. It means building a serviceable fire in summer, or winter, spring or fall, blow high, blow low, in rain, sleet, snow or hail. Without matches; perhaps with no “dry tinder or kindlings he must have a fire to warm himself or cook his food.

I have taken the liberty of consulting the works of both George R. Sears, better known as “Nessmuck,” and that lover of the woods, Horace Kephart, for a great deal of the following data.

While one kind of a fire can accomplish both things it is well to know at the start that there are really two kinds of fires: the campfire to furnish light and heat and the cooking fire to prepare our food.

Kephart divides the campfire into three kinds: The Hunter’s fire, the Trapper’s fire and the Indian’s fire.

The Hunter’s fire affords quick heat and a good all-night fire when the weather is not too severe. Two green logs about six feet long should be laid side by side about fifteen inches apart at one end and half the distance at the other.

Lay rows of small sticks across the middle of these logs and lay the tinder on them. Lay a heavier green stick at each end of the tinder and place dry sticks on them parallel to the logs. Build this up cob-house style of short dry wood. When lighted, the upper wood will soon burn through and will drop to the ground between the logs and set the inner sides to blazing. Before retiring, pile on plenty of fresh wood and in the morning there will be a nice bed of hot coals to start the breakfast fire going.

The Trapper’s fire is intended for a fixed fire in more severe weather and is built to shed its heat into a lean-to or shanty tent. Either find a boulder or rocky ledge or build a wall of rocks about six feet in front of the shelter. Slant the wall backwards. If no rocks can be found drive two stakes in the ground and lean three or four green logs against them and set two short logs on the ground in front of them to serve as andirons. Plaster mud or clay between the logs and around the andirons; in fact, any part of the structure that is liable to be attacked by fire.

The fire proper is built in the usual manner upon the andirons. Such a fire reflects the heat forward and carries the smoke upwards. It also serves as a windbreak to the camp. This fire is not good for cooking purposes but is intended solely for warmth.

The Indian’s Fire is for “one night stands” or where the camper has few cutting tools to prepare firewood.

Cut several hardwood saplings and lay three or four of them on the ground, butts together radiating them like the spokes of a wheel. Build a small, hot fire on and around this center and place the butts of other saplings on this. As fast as the wood burns away, shove the sticks in towards the center, keeping them close together. The fire continues to burn as long as the fuel lasts. A windbreak helps to throw the heat back and if the camper lies down between it and the fire he soon knows what solid comfort means.

Upon the Cooking fire depends a good portion of the pleasure of the campers. Nothing is so disconcerting as to eat smoky food or rations half done due to poorly constructed cooking apparatus. The Indian’s fire can be used in an emergency but an outdoor range is the proper thing for a fixed camp. It is made similar to the Hunter’s fire.

Cut two green logs about six feet long and eight inches thick and lay them side by side; about three inches apart at one end and eight to ten inches apart at the other. Flatten the top and inside faces with the ax. Drive a forked stake in the ground, near Teach end of the logs, and about four feet high. Lay a cross stick in the forks to suspend the kettle hooks from. Kettle hooks are made by cutting several green forks, driving a nail in one of the small ends and inverting the crotches over the cross stick. Pots and kettles can then be hung from the nails. When the fire dies down, different sized dishes can be set along the logs to simmer. Build a small hot fire of bark and hard sticks from end to end of the range. A shallow trench will serve the purpose of the logs where timber is scarce. Leave one end shallower to allow for draught.

Notwithstanding the fact that the scout may be well supplied with portable grates, ovens, etc., he may get caught out sometime without these utensils and then comes the time when he will want to know how to get along with the materials Mother Nature offers. In a fixed camp an oven is practically a necessity and in lieu of a patent one the following will be found to bake with the “best on ’em.”

Select a steep knoll or clay bank nearby and cut the front down vertically. About four feet back from the front drive down a large stake about five or six inches in diameter to a level representing the bottom level of the oven. Then draw the stake out carefully leaving a hole for the flue. When this is done, start at the vertical face and dig back into the bank until you reach the flue. Keep the entrance small but enlarge as you dig back thus forming a sort of arch. Smooth out well and then wet the whole interior and build a small fire which will gradually ‘dry and bake it into shape. Find a flat rock with which you can cover up the entrance as needed to reduce the draught.

When you wish to bake in this oven build a good fire in it of hardwood split sticks letting it burn hard for an hour or two. Rake out the embers; lay the dough on green leaves or on the bare floor and close the door with the stone.

In a case where you can find no knoll, build a frame of green sticks like a lot of croquet wickets placed close together and weave other sticks across them like a thatched roof. Set up a round stick at the rear for a chimney form. Then plaster wet clay or mud over the entire structure except the door and let dry in the sun a couple of days. Then build a small fire and let simmer along slowly until the entire oven is hardened sufficiently. Fill up all cracks and openings which have formed; plaster over again thinly and give a final firing.

Now a word regarding fires in general.

First comes the tinder. This is the foundation of any fire and should be selected with care. Dry toadstools, dead wood found in trees and stumps, dry moss and willow catkins and dry puff-balls are good natural tinder. Perfectly dry grass can be used also as well as dried dung and leaves. These things will not burn with much of a flame but serve to hold fire until the more inflammable kindling’s can be fired from them.

Kindlings can be found in dead wood, dry bark, pine knots, shavings, wood chips, dry laurel twigs, or cloths soaked in grease.

Practically every kind of wood will burn but some with much more life than others. Therefore, it is well for the scout to know that soft woods furnish the kindling while hard woods give body to the fire and furnish heat. Many pages might be written on hard and soft woods but that is hardly necessary in this article as every troop is confined to a small area and the members are probably familiar with the woods in their immediate region.

A good general rule for building a fire is:

First lay two green sticks on the ground as a foundation. This allows air to circulate underneath and is of prime importance. Across these two sticks lay a course of dry kindlings. Then lay your tinder on these. Put two other cross sticks over the tinder and then build up a “cob-house” of wood, increasing the size of the sticks as you build up. The same rule applies in building all fires: a space for air underneath, then tinder, kindling and lastly the layers of firewood.

In wet or windy weather build a windbreak to shelter the fire.

If out of matches and fire making materials you may be able to strike sparks from flint or quartz by striking them with the knife or other steel implement. Use the rays of the sun through your camera lens, field-glass or telescope lens. Tinder may be ignited by using a watch crystal half filled with water in place of a better lens.

Last but not least. When leaving a fire be sure and trench it and see that it is entirely out. Don’t neglect that. It may save thousands of feet of valuable timber from being destroyed. That is a scout’s duty.

Modern day conveniences provide us with a plethora of goods, all made with high tech materials, and yes, in many ways today’s products are far superior than yesterdays. But not everything is superior, especially when the crap hits the fan and you cannot find a place to repair that fiberglass canoe that you damaged while duck hunting. Natural materials are far superior in these instances, and you can actually repair a hole in your fiberglass canoe temporarily by melting pitch, and covering the hole with a small sheet of thin birch bark. It is temporary, but it will get you home in an emergency.

Birch bark canoes were the Chevy of the woodland waterways over a hundred years ago and have since largely fallen by the wayside, along with the skills it takes to build one. I came across this letter to the editor of the defunct Forest and Stream magazine from the November 3, 1906 issue that describes the basic steps in building a birch bark canoe. It may be a fun project to learn how to build one of your own, and it may even turn into a second source of income to help you get through the coming times. Things are only going to get worse, financially, and there seems to be a growing cadre of re-enactors and survivalists that want only the original product when it comes to going back in time.

Building a Birch Bark Canoe

I am sending to you by this mail photographs of Micmac Indians building canoes on the Wild Cat Reservation in Queens county, Nova Scotia. I believe that only a small proportion of persons who have used birch canoes have a fair general idea of how they are made.

The builder first secures his bark, and this itself requires experience and good judgment or all the work will be in vain, as it is not every big birch tree with smooth bark that will yield the desired article. Next, the gunwales are dressed and the ends fastened together, and crossbars put in place. Then come the ribs; they are fashioned from fir splits and whittled into proper shape with a crooked knife. Taking one for the exact midships of the canoe, the two ends are drawn nearly together, near enough to leave them the width of the canoe in the widest part, and tied there. Into this bowed-rib, another is bent and fitted, and another and so on till the end is reached. Another midrib is prepared in the same way and filled in like manner as the first. These are well soaked before being bent and they are left to dry, when they will retain the shape as they were bent.

Meantime a slightly dishing place is prepared on the ground, and upon it is laid lengthwise the gunwales and cross bars tightly fastened together. All around this frame stout stakes are driven deep in the earth, about one foot apart, and left to stand above ground about two feet. The gunwale frame is then removed; and the bark, now all in one piece, sewed with spruce roots, is snugly stowed away into the space surrounded by the stakes, and there arranged nearly as possible into the required shape, fitted tightly against the dishing ground to give it the proper upward curve of the extremities on the bottom. The frame is then replaced with the edge of the bark on the outside of it next the stakes. The ends of the gunwales, already securely lashed together, are made fast to two stakes, one on each side at the proper height from the ground, and on the middle crossbar is hung a stone of sufficient weight to sag the frame into a graceful curve. The edges of the bark are then tacked to the gunwale, and a thin wooden ribbon is nailed the entire length to the gunwale, and on the top of them both another thin ribbon is nailed. Once they were all sewed with roots, for nails and metal tools were not to be had for love or money.

The next step is to line the whole inside with thin strips of fir that have been dressed smooth with the knife. They are to be held firmly in place by the ribs with which a beginning is made by placing the ends of the middle rib under the gunwale and against the bark, and then forcing by hand the lower part as tightly as possible into place; but even then it will remain slanting. The next rib is placed in like position; and so on with them all till both ends are reached. By the use of a bit of wood and a hammer the ribs are, by slightly tapping them one after another, driven into a perpendicular position, and thus the bark is stretched tightly over them and takes the desired shape. If at any place the bark is unyielding, and the rib is prevented from going into proper place, this portion is treated with the application of a warm stone to the rebellious spot, when the desired result is soon secured. This is done, as a matter of course, after the canoe is taken from the stakes when it must be made water tight by the application of pitch on the seams over which narrow strips of cotton are placed. At each end are fitted heads of thin boards beyond the last pair of ribs, and behind them the space is stuffed tightly with dry shavings to prevent the bark from shrinking inwards. If there is a suspicious place that looks like a crack, it is tested by placing the mouth over it and sucking; if air comes through, a little pitch will be the remedy.

This in brief is the manner of making the birch canoe. There are great differences among the builders; some of them are born mechanics and have an eye for a good model, and have a painstaking desire to make a “thing of beauty.” that if not a “joy forever” will at least gladden some owners while she lasts. To have seen one made before tools of metal were in the hands of red men would have been an interesting performance.

R. R. Mcleod.

Brookfield, N. S.

[Adapted from the USDA Farmers Bulletin #771]

The principle employed in the fireless cooker has long been known and may be briefly stated as follows: If a hot body is protected by a suitable covering the heat in it will be retained for a long time instead of being dissipated by radiation or conduction. In using a fireless cooker the food is first heated on the stove until the cooking has begun and then it is placed in the fireless cooker, a tight receptacle in which the food is completely surrounded by some insulating substance, which prevents the rapid escape of the heat so that it is retained in the food in sufficient quantity to complete the cooking. Sometimes an additional source of heat, such as a hot soapstone, or brick is put into the cooker with the food where a higher cooking temperature is desired. The same principle is also employed in other ways in cookery. For example, in camps, beans are often baked by burying the pots overnight with hot stones and ashes, the whole being covered with earth, and in the “clam bakes” on the Atlantic coast, the damp seaweed spread over the embers and the clams prevents the escape of the heat during cooking. The peasants in some parts of Europe were said to have started their dinner cooking and then put it into hay boxes or between feather beds so that the cooking may be completed while the family is absent in the fields.

One of the chief advantages of the fireless cooker is that it accomplishes a saving in fuel, especially where gas, kerosene, or electric stoves are used. Where coal or wood is the fuel, the fire in the range is often kept up most of the day and the saving of fuel is less. In summer or when the kitchen fire is not needed for heating purposes, the dinner can be started on the stove early in the morning and then placed in the fireless cooker, the fire in the range being allowed to go out. During hot weather the use of a kerosene or other liquid fuel stove and a fireless cooker is a great convenience, since it not only accomplishes a saving in fuel but helps to keep the kitchen cooler. As would be expected, the saving in fuel resulting from the use of a fireless cooker is greatest in the preparation of foods like stews, which require long and slow cooking.

The great convenience of the fireless cooker is that it saves time, for foods cooked in it do not require watching and may be left to themselves while the cook is occupied with other duties, or the family is away from home, without danger from fires or overcooking the food. Its use, therefore, may enable a family to have home cooking instead of boarding, or hot meals instead of cold foods. Another advantage of the use of the fireless cooker is that it makes it easier to utilize cheaper cuts of meat, which, although not having as fine a texture or flavor, are fully as nutritious, pound for pound, as the more expensive cuts. Long cooking at relatively low temperature, such as is given foods in the fireless cooker, improves the texture and flavor of these tougher cuts of meat.


While there are many good fireless cookers on the market, it is possible to construct a homemade cooker which, if properly built, will give very satisfactory results and is cheaper than one which is purchased. The materials needed are a box or some other outside container, some good insulating or packing material, a kettle for holding the food, a container for the kettle or a lining for the nest in which the kettle is to be placed, and a cushion or pad of insulating material to cover the top of the kettle.

For the outside container a tightly built wooden box, such as that shown in figure 1. is probably the most satisfactory. An old trunk, a small barrel, or a large butter or lard firkin or tin may be used. Another possibility is a galvanized-iron bucket with a closely fitting cover; this latter has the advantage of being fireproof. A shoe box 15 by 15 by 28 inches is convenient in size, since it may be divided into two compartments. The box should have a hinged cover, and at the front side a hook and staple or some other device to hold the cover down; an ordinary clamp window fastener answers the latter purpose very well. Whatever the container used, its size, which depends upon the size of the kettle used, should be large enough to allow for at least 4 inches of packing material all around the nest in which the kettle is placed.

Fig. 1.—Homemade fireless cooker, showing outside container and cushion for filling space above the cooking vessel.

The kettles used for cooking should be durable and free from seams or crevices, which are hard to clean. They should have perpendicular sides and the covers should be as flat as possible and provided with a deep rim shutting well down into the kettle to retain the steam. (See fig. 2.) It is possible to buy kettles made especially for use in fireless cookers; these are provided with covers which can be clamped on tightly. The size of the kettle should be determined by the quantity of food to be cooked. Small amounts of food ca not be cooked satisfactorily in large kettles, and it is therefore an advantage to have a cooker with compartments of two or more different sizes. Kettles holding about 6 quarts are of convenient sizefor general use, Tinned iron kettles should not be used in a fireless cooker, for, although cheap, they are very apt to rust from the confined moisture. Enameled ware kettles are satisfactory, especially if the covers are of the same material. Aluminum vessels may be purchased in shapes which make them especially well adapted for use in fireless cookers and, like enameled ware, they do not rust.

Fireless cookers are adapted to a much wider range of cooking if they are provided with an extra source of heat, since a higher cooking temperature nun’ thus be obtained than if hot water is depended upon as the sole source of heat. Obviously this introduces a possible danger from fire in case the hot stone or other substance should come into direct contact with inflammable packing material like excelsior or paper. To avoid this danger a metal lining must be provided for the nest in which the cooking vessel and stone are to be put. As an extra source of heat a piece of soapstone, brick, or an iron plate, such as a stove lid, may be used. This is heated and placed in the nest under the cooking vessel; sometimes an additional stone is put over the cooking vessel.

Fig. 2-Cover provided with deep rim shutting down into the kettle to retain the steam.

The container for the cooking vessel, or the lining for the nest in which it is to be put, should be cylindrical in shape; should be deep enough to hold the cooking kettle and stone, if one is used; and should fit as snugly as possible to the cooking vessel, but at the same time should allow the latter to be moved in and out freely. If the cylinder is too large the air space between it and the kettle will tend to cool the food. For this purpose a galvanized iron or other metal bucket may be used or, better still, a tinsmith can make a lining of galvanized iron or zinc which can be provided with a rim to cover the packing material (as shown in fig. 3). In case no hot stone or plate is to be used in the cooker, the lining can be made of strong cardboard.

Fig 3.—Metal lining for nest of fireless cooker: A, Rim to cover packing material. B, Metal container for cooking kettle and hot stone.

For the packing and insulating material, a variety of substances may be used. Asbestos and mineral wool are undoubtedly the best, and have the additional advantage that they do not burn. Ground cork, hay, excelsior, Spanish moss, wool, and crumpled paper may also be used satisfactorily. Of the inexpensive materials that can be obtained easily, crumpled paper is probably the most satisfactory, since it is clean and odorless and, if properly packed, will hold the heat better than some of the others. To pack the container with paper, crush single sheets of newspaper between the hands. Pack a layer at least 4 inches deep over the bottom of the outside container, tramping it in or pounding it in with a heavy stick of wood. Stand the container for the cooking vessel, or the lining for the nest, in the center of this layer and pack more crushed papers about it as solidly as possible. The method of packing with paper is illustrated in figure 4. If other packing, such as excelsior, hay, or cork dust, is used, it should be packed in a similar way. Where an extra source of heat is to be used, it is much safer to pack the fireless cooker with some noninflammable material, such as asbestos or mineral wood. A cheap and easily obtained substitute are the small cinders sifted from coal ashes, preferably those from soft coal, which may be obtained at the boiler house of any mill. The cinders from hard coal burned in the kitchen range will do, however. Experiments with this material made in this office showed that it is very nearly as satisfactory as crumpled paper as a packing material. If a fireproof packing material is not used a heavy pad of asbestos paper should be put at the bottom of the metal nest and a sheet or two of asbestos paper should be placed between the lining of the nest and the packing material. Whatever packing material is used, it should come to the top of the container for the kettle, and the box should lack about 4 inches of being full. A cushion or pad must be provided to fill completely the space between the top of the packing and the cover of the box after the hot kettles are put in place. (See fig. 1,) This should be made of some heavy goods, such as denim, and stuffed with cotton, crumpled paper, or excelsior. Hay may be used, but will be found more or less odorous. Figure 5 shows the vertical cross section of a homemade fireless cooker.


Obviously the fireless cooker must be to obtain the best results. It is best which require boiling, steaming, or long, slow cooking in a moist heat. Foods cannot be fried in it, pies cannot be baked successfully in the ordinary fireless cooker, nor can any cooking be done which requires a high, dry heat for browning. Meats, however, may be partially roasted in the oven and finished in the cooker, or may be begun in the cooker and finished in the oven with much the same results as if they were roasted in the oven entirely. The classes of food best adapted to the cooker are cereals, soups, meats, vegetables, dried fruits, steamed breads, and puddings.

When different foods are cooked together in the fireless cooker they must be such as require the same amount of cooking, since the cooker cannot be opened to take out food without allowing the escape of a large amount of heat and making it necessary to reheat the contents. It would not do to put foods which need about one and one-half hours to cook into the cooker with a piece of meat which would stay several hours.

Fig 5.—longitudinal section through tireless cooker, showing details of the construction: A, Outside container (wooden box, old trunk, etc.) B, Padding or Insulating material (crumpled paper, cinders, etc.). C, Metal lining of nest D, Cooking kettle E, Soapstone plate, or other source of heat, f, Pad of excelsior for covering top O, Hinged cover of outside container.

The size of the container used in cooking with the fireless cooker should be governed according to the amount of food to be cooked. Small quantities of food cannot be cooked satisfactorily in a large kettle in the fireless cooker. If a large kettle must be used better results will be obtained if some other material which holds heat fairly well is used to fill up the empty space. This may be accomplished in several ways. One is to put the small quantity of food to be cooked into a smaller, tightly closed kettle, fill the large kettle with boiling water and put the small kettle into it, standing it on an inverted bowl or some other suitable support. This boiling water will take up and hold the heat better than air would. Several smaller dishes (if tightly covered) may be placed in the kettle surrounded by boiling water. Baking powder or other tins often are found useful for this purpose. Another way is to place one food in a basin which just fits into the top of a large kettle and to let some other material, some vegetable perhaps, cook in the water in the bottom of the kettle. Two or more flat, shallow kettles placed one on top of the other so as to fill the cooker enable one to cook small amounts of different foods successfully. Such kettles, made especially for use in fireless cookers, may be purchased.

The time which each kind of food should stay in the cooker depends both on the nature of the food and on the temperature at which it remains inside the cooker, and before recipes for use with the fireless cooker can be prepared one must have some means of knowing how temperatures are preserved in it. In experiments made in this office a 6-quart kettle was filled with boiling water and put into the cooker, the packing of which happened to be newspaper. The temperature of the water, which was 212° F. when put into the cooker, was found to be 172° F. after four hours had elapsed and 155° F. after eight hours had elapsed. This shows the advisability of the common custom of allowing food to remain undisturbed in the cooker for at least six or eight hours, or in some cases overnight. If a soapstone, hot brick, or other extra source of heat is used, less time will be required. Materials which are denser than water (sugar syrup as used in cooking dried fruit), and therefore can be heated to a higher degree, will keep up the temperature longer when put into the cooker. Thus the density of the food material, as well as the amount and the length of time that the apparatus retains the heat, must be taken into consideration in determining how long different materials must be cooked in the cooker.

The recipes for dishes to be prepared in the fireless cooker differ somewhat from those for foods cooked in the ordinary way, chiefly in the amount of water or other liquids called for. Less liquid should be put into the food to be prepared in an ordinary fireless cooker, since there is no chance for water to evaporate. The cook must be guided largely by experience in deciding how long the food should be heated before being put into the cooker and how long it should be allowed to remain there.