Being still a bit incapacitated and hopping along on two crutches still, my good friend Bracken and I decide we will meet up and grab a coffee, but while I have the image of heading down Starbucks for a chat Brackens got other ideas. Before I know it I’m stood in my local woods with a handful of dry tinder near a pile of freshly gathered twigs. At this point It’s worth mentioning I haven’t accidentally stepped through a randomly placed wormhole through space time that’s popped up while making my order in the coffee shop, Brackens a bushcraft instructor. And that’s why he’s even managed to turn making a cup jitter juice into an involved outdoor pursuit. In fact I’m actually surprised the beans aren’t from his own coffee plant. Right now, and not for the first time in the time I’ve known him he’s handing me a palmful of some sort of plant product, in this case it’s thistle seed heads and a bunch of paper birch bark.
A few months back Bracken gifted me one of these twig burning stoves, which at the time I honestly thought I might never get round to using being a more mountain based person myself. And you don’t often get many trees on top of mountains where I’ve been. He did promise though that he would show me how to use this simple looking little device though and now, true to his word he’s going to show me how to use it. I guess there’s not many parts that can. really go around with it as it’s not like it has valves and a gas cylinder like my usual stove. Bearing that in mind though there’s not really anything that can go wrong with it, plus if you are camping in the woods and need something that packs away small this is pretty much perfect. The other thing that’s a bonus is if you are in the woods the fuel is all around you, so you don’t need to carry much extra with it.
We find our way over to a handy chopped down tree stump to set the fire bowl down which will stop us randomly burning a hole in the floor of the woodland, which is of course a no-no, and I set up a handful of the thistle seed heads on the bit of metal foil he’s given me. He tells me that the plan is to use a fire steel to get a spark onto the seed heads and get an ember going before getting a small flame going and adding the birch bark and then smaller sticks. Sounds simple right? Well, in fact no actually it isn’t, especially not for a beginner like myself. After what feels like hundreds of attempts my mind starts to wander to the lighter I’ve got in my pocket. And there’s some temptation to just sneak it out while his backs turned and see if he notices that suddenly I’ve got a fire going. Only thing is despite having a bit of a lack of patience sometimes, I also don’t give up easily. After what feels like an age the spark jumps to the thistle seed heads and I see a tiny red glowing ember in them. I jump in there and start frantically blowing on the next stage of stuff that consists of a handful of balled up and dried grass. This isn’t quite catching so he gathers it up for me in his hands, doing his best unintentional Ray Mears impression while I blow into his hands. Essentially now we both just look like two strange men who are standing in the woods setting a small birds nest on fire. And unsurprisingly dog walkers are walking past giving us funny looks, eyebrows raised. This is not the first time though as last time last time I was in these woods I was showing Andy how to belay for climbing using a tree. I’m going to get known as the local weirdo pretty soon at this rate. The flame begins to catch in the birds nest and we push the lot into the twig stove, and I get down and start blowing into it, finding as usual I’m the unlucky person who gets the wind change on him all the time. I’m getting plenty of smoke right in my face as I attempt to blow the flames to take more on the larger twigs we are adding into the stove. Luckily Bracken takes over and we’ve finally got the thing going! On goes the pot of coffee which stews for long enough to make it super strong. I’m actually mega stoked about the fact that I’ve managed to make fire just using a fire steel and bits of seed heads, which Bracken informs me is actually quite difficult.
I’ve acquired a new skill….does this coffee just taste good because of the amount of effort involved? Maybe this is the sort of pride Stone Age man felt when he first started a fire. The coffee is great and I only had to freak out a few dog walkers and smell like a barn fire to earn it!