Survival Friday

Every Friday, we have a home school field day. After finishing the basics, math, spelling, and reading, we move outside and work on our survival skills. This last week our focus was on winter fire building and just how much wood it takes to keep a fire lit. My kids are constantly amazed that the piles of sticks they work to collect disappear so quickly, I intentionally burn a hot fire to show them that they will always need to collect more wood than they think they need, especially to make it through a night.

Swiss army makes a great kids knife that doesn’t have a pointed blade while maintaining a sharp edge. A sharp knife is essential for teaching kids knife safety as a dull blade will teach them to push harder and likely result in injury.
Carving a stick with the Swiss Army kids knife.
We discussed how one of the quickest ways to lose body heat is through your bum when you sit on the snow. Always sit on a log, leaves, branches, any barrier that won’t sap much needed heat away.

Our fire building consists of foraged tinder and is started with a ferro rod and steel. Fire building (and fire safety) is a primary skill I have focused on with my kids. I think that often, with tools and novelties like fire, they are most dangerous when not understood. I want to give my kids the skills needed to effectively build a fire, sustain it, and keep it safe and confined. If a child can see what fire can do, I think they are less likely to abuse it with curiosity and treat it like a toy. My kids have seen the charred wreckage of my childhood best friends’ farm and they know first hand what a little bit of fire can do! I hope that these weekly lessons are teaching them responsibility.

My much used Ferrocerium Steel fire starter.
Sticks with a spongy pith make for some neat smoke straws!
After looking up for widow makers (dead branches) we made this little shelter between two Y trees.

We talked about location for a fire, especially since it was a very windy day, we set up in the base of a valley on a flat spot that was nicely out of the wind but also not in a runoff section where we could get flooded out. The kids collected bark for tinder and I showed them how I like to shave off pieces of birch bark into a nest of ceder bark and have it all sitting on a large strip of birch to keep it off the wet ground and also allow for me to hold it while I blow on the sparks. Winter fire starting can hold a special challenge because there is water everywhere, but is also easier in some ways because most bark that is off the ground is very dry. We usually have a fire started with only a few strikes on ferro rod because the amount and quality of tinder and kindling my kids have been taught to gather is effective.

One of my main lines of instruction to them is that preparation is never wasted time: the more we prepare, the more likely our success in the field will be.

Heating the broth. We use a camp cooking set we found at Salvation Army for $3.
I still love stoneware mugs, even if I have to gently pack them. They just feel better!
Pouring broth with my hatchet and sheath to avoid being burned.

When we studied the Civil War last year, we read a quote from Abraham Lincoln that said “if you give me six hours to cut down a tree, I will spend the first hour sharpening the axe”. Now the funny thing about history is that if you look up that quote, you will find every variation in time and wording possible. Everything from 1-9 hours to cut down the tree and 45 minutes to 6 hours sharpening the axe! Craziness that even a quote is subjective to the writers of history. Still, the main point of the quote remains the same: spend time aptly preparing and you will do better work.

Ayla with her bread and broth.
Jada chomping some bread while Finley keeps an eye out.

My older girls made us some Phoenician flat bread (we are studying ancient history) to eat around the fire. We brought out some bone broth from our whole chicken the day before and heated it over the fire. The kids enjoyed the smoky flavor and decided broth tastes best when cooked this way! I enjoy sharing my love of the outdoors and survival skills with my kids and I am so happy that they enjoy it to. Survival Friday is their favorite part of the week!

A nice little camp!
Sooty hands and a cup of delicious broth: survival Friday at its finest!

4 comments

  1. This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of reading your blog it was delightful! Thanks to your mama

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  2. Just started following your blog and already love it! How and where do you decide to what to teach your kids? All of this seems great to learn along side my kids.

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    • Hello! Where, in our yard or our woods. I have a special “survival friday” spot in the yard for when we can’t venture into the woods. When we can, we walk in the woods until we find a spot that looks good, which is an amazing benefit to having our own land. I like to switch up locations so that they learn what kind of terrain to look for.
      The what is mostly what is most valuable for them. I always start kids on navigation and learning to be aware. We live in a society where most people have their faces in their phones, even in the wild! I want my kids to learn to have an awareness and presentness in their environment. I want them to be oriented to their environment in such a way that they can tell which way is north, south, etc. We work on this all the time, I constantly ask them no matter where we are what direction something is to see if they remember the things we have been learning. I also like to teach kids what are the steps they should take if they get lost, and how to increase their chances of being found quickly.
      We also do the fun stuff like knot tying and fire starting, however, I know most people won’t have a fire starter or a length of rope when they got lost in the woods. That is more for intentional survival like camping.
      So a good start is basics of navigation, how to use a compass, how to orient yourself to your environment, and how to signal for help. I’ll be doing survival friday posts here soon with what I teach!

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