By Travis Birch
Something that my wife and I try to do with our boys, is to give them a sense that they can make the best of every situation. Sometimes this means making a meal stretch, or trying to be one with nature’s gifts. We attempt this behavior by practicing to live off the grid in our cabin. Often it means preparing at our home in town, and then applying what we learn when we head off the grid for the weekend or while on vacation.
The ideas we get are learned from lore passed down, internet videos, past experiences, and from little nuggets of gems shared from friends. Today I want to share a few simple ways to make your life easier if you are attempting to live a life off the grid.
The first project is one that my friend’s daughter share with us from her girl scouting days. It is called a sit upon. To put it simply, it is a cushion designed to keep your posterior warm and dry when sitting on the cold hard ground.
Take a flannel shirt that you are ready to get rid of. Cut it into a square, optimizing the material. Turn it so that the material you want showing is on the inside, and just sew up three sides. Turn the whole thing back inside out, and on what you plan to be the bottom lay a cutout piece of a milk container. Try to make it large enough to cover the bottom entirely. This will help keep moisture from seeping through it quickly.
Next fill it with shredded newspaper. This will keep you warm and cushioned. On the top portion you can add a layer of tin foil. The tin foil will work to radiate your body heat back upwards to you. When it looks right and feels right, close the last side, and stitch it up. You are done. If you want to bedazzle it or make it something more than it is, then go ahead. If you want to employ your favorite college shirt to make it more memorable, then do it, this is your seat cushion. Designed to keep your body from directly absorbing the cold ground.
Then next project is the gift that keeps on giving, a homemade Sterno. Sterno is a heat source used primarily to keep a chafing dish warm while serving food. It has several applications, and looks somewhat like what you might think napalm looks like.
Instead of going out and buying some, we found a quick recipe to make our own, recycling in the process. Take a used tuna fish can, tuna can or a cat food can and clean it out. Take a piece of corrugate and cut it down so that it will fit perfectly inside the can. Roll it up, evenly. Make your roll large enough so that it fits inside the can snug. In a double boiler, warm up some paraffin wax. When it is ready to pour, use work gloves to fill the corrugate. Take the opportunity to dip some strike anywhere matches in the paraffin to waterproof them. When everything solidifies, store the can with a couple of matches in a zipper lock bags. When you are ready to use this, scrap the paraffin off the tip, strike the match and light your homemade Sterno. You have an instant heat source. We have found this source to stay lit for about 30 minutes.
The last task is a simple one that will help you in a pinch. Take three strap hinges, I use 8” hinges. These are shaped somewhat like a triangle. Take each one by the screw hole closest to the point, and connect all three with a bolt and wing nut. You have just built a folding compact stove. Take the three free ends, and gently pound them into the ground with a trusty rubber mallet. Apply a heat source underneath and set your coffee pot on top. This will keep it warm and won’t torch the bottom with a larger scalding fire.
At the end of the day, you can rest on your sit upon, while gazing on your fire. Next to you, you have your coffee pot simmering on your homemade burner which keeps it slightly above your homemade Sterno. These simple things will make your quiet time a little more enjoyable.