Campfire Songs for Kids

One of the ways we enjoy the outdoors with our daughter is to sing kids songs and play the guitar, whether it’s around a campfire or just sitting on the family room floor. While searching online for guitar chords, I noticed that many of the kids songs I wanted to play didn’t have chords posted online, and there wasn’t a great compilation of easily printable songs anywhere that struck my fancy. So, I’ve decided to type them up, one by one, and post them for anyone’s use. I added clip art to each one so my two-year-old can choose which song she wants based on the picture. I have had to figure out some of the chords myself, so if you think any corrections are warranted, send me a message.   A Bicycle Built for Two (Daisy, Daisy) Five Green and Speckled Frogs Five Little Monkeys Making Something is One Way to Say I Love You The Cat Came Back Twinkle Twinkle Little...

Pale Corydalis in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Pale Corydalis in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Pale Corydalis, Corydalis sempervirens, is a native plant found in the northeastern half of Minnesota. This pink and yellow flower can be found in the BWCA, as this one was. This photo was taken in late July of 2012. During late summer, thin green seedpods are produced, which later turn brown and release seeds. In the photo below you can see that the seedpod has turned a light brown, but has not yet released seeds.   Pale Corydalis, also called Rock Harlequin, blooms in the spring and summer from May – September. It is a member of the Fumitory family (Fumariaceae), a family that also includes the charming plant Dutchman’s Breeches. This plant is not edible. It contains a narcotic alkaloid and can have a hallucinogenic effect when digested that can result in a slowed heart rate. Corydalis plants have been used historically as a sedative and painkiller, but this is not a recommended practice. It is best to just consider it a toxic plant. Pale Corydalis Habitat This plant can be found in dry, sunny areas and rocky, sandy soil. It prefers the cooler habitat of boreal forests and lake shores and is often found in rock outcroppings....

How to Build a Quinzee

How to Build a Quinzee

A quinzee is basically a hollowed out pile of snow that you can use for a survival shelter in the winter, or as a sweet fort in your backyard. It is not nearly as complicated as building an igloo, and can be completed with a solid afternoon’s work with two people. I have slept overnight in these structures while winter camping in northern Minnesota, and they can keep you relatively warm, especially if the temperatures outside are well below freezing. How to Build a Quinzee Step by Step 1) Determine the location of your quinzee. It will have an entrance hole, so it’s helpful to make sure that’s not facing directly into the wind. If, for example, you are going to build it on an island in the Boundary Waters like we did, you probably wouldn’t choose to build it on the edge of the island with the hole facing the frozen water. Find a nice sheltered area for your little hut. 2) Determine the size of your quinzee. This may depend on the area you have found, or you may have a larger area to work with. Stomp out the perimeter of your quinzee, then stomp down the center as well to make a sturdy base. 3) Pile up a heck of a lot of snow! You can build a quinzee with any kind of snow as long as you can pile up enough of it. The weight of the snow piled up will compact it into a structure that you can hollow out. This will be the most time consuming task, especially since eventually you may need to start carrying shovelfuls of snow over to your developing pile to make it large enough. Remove layers as necessary to avoid soaking through your clothes with sweat, especially if you do not have a change of clothes. Sleeping outside, even in the shelter of a quinzee, in the winter with wet clothes will bring you no good. 4) Once your pile of snow is satisfactory, take a break. Seriously! The snow needs time to settle, and you need a rest before hollowing it out. Try to give the pile at least a couple of hours. The process the snow goes through is called sintering, in which the points of the snowflakes are broken off through pressure, and the resultant rounded grains can fuse together into larger crystals. This is what allows you to build a shelter out of any type of snow, even light fluff. 5) After the snow has had a good chance to sinter, and you’ve gotten in a good meal or perhaps a short bout of ice fishing, it’s nearly time to hollow out the structure. Before you do, gather a quantity of sticks and break them into pieces that are roughly 1 foot long each. Jab these all over into your pile to use as guides. As you are hollowing out the pile, you keep scraping away at the snow until you reach these sticks, which are your indication to stop. 6) It’s finally time to hollow out the pile. If you haven’t already done so, choose where the entrance hole is going to be. Rather than having your entrance go straight into the hole, have it travel down first and then in. This may result in a somewhat snakelike movement on your part to get in and out of the structure, which really only makes things more fun. This will also allow cold air to gather in this little downward facing hole, and let the inside of the quinzee stay nice and cozy once it’s hollowed out. It’s best to do this process with two people – one person hollowing out the structure with a smaller shovel, and the other person removing the snow from the entrance with another shovel. This is also helpful in case the structure collapses while the hollower is inside. This is unlikely to happen, but if it does, you have a rescuer immediately available. Stop scraping at the walls once you are able to see your guide sticks. You will likely be able to see a bit of daylight through the walls as well. The thickness should be about 10 – 12 inches. 7) Once your quinzee is hollowed out to your liking, dig out a couple of small holes for air exchange. These should be about 1/3 of the way down from the top, and about large enough to fit your fist through. Time to enjoy your fort…ahem…quinzee survival structure. We had added the tarp the next morning to provide a shelter from the snow while we were eating breakfast. Spending the night in the...

d.light S10 Solar LED Lantern Review

d.light S10 Solar LED Lantern Review

This d.light S10 Solar LED lantern provides a lightweight, renewable source of light. The solar panel charges easily in the sunlight, making it a great item to take camping, or to have in case of a power outage. d.light S10 Solar LED Lantern Solar powered lanterns are a great alternative to kerosene or propane. I have a propane powered lantern as well, but I prefer the renewable option of solar power, and this lantern is much more lightweight. It is not as bright as the propane lamp on high, so if you are looking for a lantern to light up a whole outdoor area this will not do it. However, it lights up a tent or a table area just fine and has two brightness settings. After a good charge it lasts a full night on the low setting (around 8 hours). I’m quite the fan of solar powered lanterns in general, due to the fact of not having to deal with changing batteries and carrying spare ones with. It’s quite light without the weight of batteries and can easily be hung in the center of a tent. The handle of the lantern makes it convenient to hang. It’s simple enough to charge – set it in some sunlight. It will also charge if cloudy. It has a small LED that lights up when it’s charging so you don’t feel like your efforts are in vain. If you do have access to electricity, this d.light S10 solar LED lantern can also be charged with AC...

Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock Review

Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock Review

The Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock is a great inexpensive option for a lightweight travel hammock, and is also useful if you are just looking for something that packs up small for convenient storage. Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock (Forrest Green) It’s important to note that this is an inexpensive hammock, so it is not the highest quality you will find out there. For the price though, and if you pay attention to the weight limits, it is a decent option. As with any fabric hammock, I would caution against leaving this out in the sun and rain for extended periods of time, as this will weaken the fabric. This hammock comes with ropes and hooks on the ends. I’m personally not a big fan of hooks, and would rather use good knots or carabiners. The ropes that it comes with are rather short, but I have purchased more expensive hammocks that didn’t have ropes on the ends at all. I have done backpacking trips where packing light was absolutely essential, so for those bringing a hammock and rainfly would be a better use of space than carrying along a tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. The Grand Trunk Ultralight hammock does pack down to a weight of 12 ounces. The fabric is machine washable (as it should be), which is helpful when bringing home a hammock that smells strongly of campfire smoke (or sweat). It does dry quickly as well. I have left it up in the rain, and probably due to the lightweight fabric and the fact that it was still hanging up, it did not take terribly long to dry out. I have used this tent several times over the course of a year, and have not had any issues with it. This hammock does only support up to 250 pounds though, and I wouldn’t push it based on some of the other reviews I have read. Neither my husband or I come close to this weight limit, but I did read a review from one woman who had the fabric of her hammock rip right down the middle. On the other hand, I read reviews from people in the 250 pound range who had no issues at all. My conclusion from this is that the hammock will probably be fine if properly cared for and your weight is less than 250, but if you want to be safe I would purchase a hammock made of stronger fabric that is meant to support a heavier person. As with everything, you get what you pay...

How to Use an Emergency Fire Starter

How to Use an Emergency Fire Starter

Emergency fire starters are typically made with magnesium, and most have built-in blades or knives. Basically, you will first need to shave bits of magnesium off the fire starter with a knife onto some tinder. The flint from the fire starter is then used to create sparks, which should ignite the flammable magnesium as well as the tinder. From there, it’s your job to keep the fire going! Read further for more detailed instructions.   This emergency fire starter, for example, has a striker with one serrated edge rather than a knife. The serrated edge is used to shave off the bits of magnesium, and then the flint is struck with the other side of the striker. How to Use an Emergency Fire Starter – Detailed Instructions Before you even think about making your little pile of magnesium shavings, you will need to gather dry tinder and assemble it into a nice little airy pile in a location where you will want your fire to be. Your tinder could be anything from twigs to bark to fuzz from your clothing, and will be used as fuel to ignite larger pieces of burnable fuel. When you start to shave off the bits of magnesium onto the tinder, hold the starter at an angle above the tinder. Try scraping toward you rather than away to have greater control over where the shavings land. You should create a pile that is about the size of a quarter, and it should land directly on the tinder. Your emergency fire starter will also have a flint component. This may be on the same block as the magnesium, or it could be on a separate one. Use the blade portion of the fire starter to scrape down the flint in order to create sparks. Make sure you are once again holding the flint at an angle so that the sparks land on the flammable magnesium and tinder. Continue to strike the flint until the sparks have lit the fuel and started a flame. From there, it is your job to nurture the flame into a fire! Protect this little flame from strong wind, but do gently blow on it to encourage the flame to spread. Slowly add more tinder, and then progressively larger bits of fuel as the fire grows. Zippo Emergency Fire Starter Kit This fire starter kit is available at REI and includes a flint-wheel ignition and 4 waxed tinder sticks to help you get a fire going. It also helpfully floats in water and has a waterproof...

Venison French Onion Soup Recipe

Venison French Onion Soup Recipe

Onions and venison complement each other tremendously. I hadn’t seen a recipe for this before, but I like to make French onion soup at least a couple of times per year, and with a deep freezer full of venison, I’m always trying to think of new ways to utilize it. And so, my version of venison French onion soup came to be. Ingredients 4 onions, thinly sliced 1/2 cup butter (if you use salted butter, just add less salt at the end) roughly 2 tablespoons minced garlic (to taste) about 1 pound of venison, cubed (you can use tougher meat, since this will cook in a crock pot for many hours) 4 – 6 cups beef broth (add more or less depending on the consistency you like) 1 cup red wine (I like the flavors of Shiraz with this) venison seasoning (if you have it) OR thyme and pepper salt, to taste 1 crusty baguette white cheese (Gruyere, if you want to throw down the cash, otherwise swiss will also do the trick) parsley Directions Melt the butter in a fry pan over medium-high heat, and fry the venison until browned (several minutes). Remove the venison, and leave the remaining butter in the pan. Fry the onions and garlic until soft and browned (several minutes). Transfer the venison, and onions and garlic to a crock pot. Add the beef broth and red wine. Let cook on low for 6 – 8 hours (this will help the meat become more tender). After the concoction has cooked long enough, add seasoning to taste (you will have to taste it). Don’t over-season, you can always add more later. Before serving, put the soup into oven-safe bowls. Put slices of the baguette on top, and then add the slices of cheese. Sprinkle with parsley. Put in the oven and broil until the cheese is brown and bubbling. Serve immediately, and handle with caution (the bowls and soup will be HOT!)....