nature school project: homemade fire starters
In this Martin & Sylvia's Nature School story, "Change Fairies," Martin loves making fires. He loves to watch fires burn and finds the crackling sounds soothing. Eva, one of the apprentices, has a very different picture of the true nature of fire — one that is poetic and understood as a part of the fairy world. This helps Martin see not only fire in a different light, but all things that change.
We are joined by a new Sparkle contributor Rachel Wolf, writer of the lovely blog Clean. She shares with us her tutorial for making homemade firestarters.
Before we moved to our current home we heated exclusively with wood. To be more honest we heated exclusively with the sun and supplemented after dark with a fire in the wood stove. (That is my plug for passive solar home design. We heated our house on less than a cord of wood a year with no additional heat source.)
Our current house is arguably less efficient. Leaky and north-facing, we still heat with wood, but as a back up to our furnace. Ideally we have a fire everyday, burning throughout the day.
Which brings us to kindling and fire starting. I love having a fire burning. I even enjoy stacking wood but I hate splitting kindling. It is a thankless job and I always thought fires without kindling would be a dream-come-true.
Enter the beeswax fire starter.
Kindling is no longer a part of our reality. Neither is birch bark or newspaper. Our fireplace area contains beeswax fire starters, firewood, and matches. That's it. Making fire starters for your fireplace, wood stove, or campfires is easy peasy. (Easier than splitting kindling!)
Homemade Fire Starter
scrap candle ends
sawdust, straw or coffe chaff
Here is how we do it:
Collect some scrap candle ends. Post to Freecycle or Craigslist that you are looking for these, or scrounge rummage sales for boxes of ancient candles. If you prefer you can also use purchased beeswax or paraffin. (Paraffin however is a petroleum product. Use your own judgment here.)
Collect sawdust or other suitable lightweight material (chopped straw, or our choice, coffee chaff from a local coffee roastery) and paper egg cartons. We make several dozen at a time and stock up on cartons in the off-season.
- Cover your floors and counters with newspaper or drop cloths.
Melt candle ends or wax on low heat in an old pan on the stove or use an old slow cooker (we have a dedicate one for candle making that we use).
- Watch your wax to insure that it doesn't get too hot (overheated wax will burn!). While the wax melts fill the egg cartons to the top with sawdust.
- Pour melted wax carefully over sawdust and press down with an old teaspoon. Continue adding sawdust and wax until the cartons are full. They should not be soggy with wax, but the sawdust should absorb the wax almost completely and they should look something like the photo below.
Allow to cool.
To use: tear off a single egg and place on top of one piece of fire wood. Place a smaller piece of wood (or two) across the top of the fire starter. Light. Smile at your cleverness.
Martin & Sylvia's Nature School
As the summer comes to an end, Momma, Martin and Sylvia reflect on all the things they loved about the summer season: hikes, walks along the beach, blueberry picking, climbing trees and collecting bird feathers. Then Momma suggests that they keep the summer outdoor fun alive all year long: “Every Thursday, let’s have Nature School!” And so Martin joins the Goose-eye Wilderness School, and Sylvia and her friend Sophia create a Nature home-school. From wildcraft cooking to outdoor games to building projects to tree identification, Nature School will be a year of unfolding learning and fun.