Why Campfires are Good for your Health and How to Light One
By Jessie Roberts-Duffey
Yes, it’s really true! Research shows that campfires can lower blood pressure. And the longer you spend in front of an open fire the greater the relaxing effect. So what are you waiting for? Get those matches out!
The draw of a hot crackling fire is hard to resist for adults and children alike. What could be more evocative than the thought of sitting around a blazing fire, late into the evening, toasting marshmallows, chatting, throwing on the occasional log and listening to the owls hooting close by, the stars twinkling above. In this busy, high tech world that we live in, a campfire is such an easy way to completely switch off, re-charge your batteries, embrace the outdoors and spend real quality time with loved ones.
Camping (or glamping!) certainly wouldn’t be the same without a campfire to sit around, what would you do with yourself in the evening! We love outdoor fires at One Cat Farm and Lyndon takes his job as Chief Woodsman very seriously- piling, stacking, moving, chopping and splitting tonnes of wood. He even tucks up his wood-piles when it rains. His personal mission is to ensure that guests can have a roaring fire every evening.
All of our wood at One Cat Farm is seasoned- this means wood that has been left for the sap content to dry out, and it is all hardwood. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees such as Oak, Ash and Beech. It burns for longer than Softwood (Most Evergreens) creates less tar and does not spit. Currently we buy in the majority of our wood from a local supplier and get a small amount from on site. We are planning to use more and more of our own wood in the future by coppicing some of the smaller trees here to provide ourselves with a sustainable wood source.
After cutting, the fresh wood must be stored- first outdoors for at least a year, preferably more, and then indoors for 6 months, after which it will be ready to burn. If you try to burn freshly cut, green wood, it is difficult to light a fire and once it does get going, it will be smoky and not produce much heat. This is why we have a large pile of logs sitting on the yard- they are in the first phase of drying out.
If our guests are expert firelighters they will appreciate the time and care that we put into our firewood. And if they are fire-lighting novices then we aim to make it as easy as possible for them to get started.
The baskets of firewood that we provide for guests to collect each day, may just look like a load of wood has been dropped in randomly, but on closer inspection, you will see that it is a perfect fire-lighting package. The larger, longer burning logs are at the bottom, then some smaller logs that are quicker to burn are placed on top of them and right on the top of the basket, the finely chopped kindling, to get the fire started
If you haven’t lit a fire before then its good to remember that it needs to start small and then grow slowly. Don’t put on large logs until there are embers glowing in the fire-pit and the fire has been burning for at least half an hour- maybe longer. Be patient and attentive.
A simple fire lighting technique- is to lay two medium sized logs side by side with a tiny gap between them for air. Put a firelighter on the gap. Then carefully place some kindling in a tipi shape over the firelighter. Light the firelighter and then, once the kindling has caught, add some more, and so on. Eventually you can start to add some of the smaller logs and the fire will be on its way to being established. A good tip is to always place any wood half over the flame to avoid smothering the fire.
If you’re a dab hand with fires then it can be fun to challenge yourself, try lighting one without any firelighters, matches or candles. Collect some dry tinder, use a firestone to get a spark and then carefully, carefully blow the spark until the tinder catches and you get some flames. Or you could be even more extreme and try rubbing wood together.
Once the fire is going well, cooking up a feast can be a fun and delicious new experience. Even if it’s just a few potatoes in foil or, corn on the cob, or a veggie chilli made at home and brought along to heat up on arrival. If you do want to cook over your fire, it needs to be established- cooking on a newly lit fire won’t work. You need patience. Think of a barbeque- you don’t cook over the flames, you wait until they have died down and then use the hot embers. It is the same when you cook over a campfire.
At One Cat Farm we provide a tripod, barbeques, Hungarian Kotlich pans, kettles and cast iron frying pans and some outdoor cookbooks to make it as easy as possible for guests to cook over their fire.
Sitting around a campfire is something that our distant ancestors would have certainly done and is one of the earliest forms of social connection (or social media!), creating, maintaining and strengthening social bonds which would have been essential to life for our ancestors and arguably still are today.
A campfire can be romantic, sociable, great for a loud singsong or for quiet contemplation and soul nourishment.
Did you know?
- If burning in a space capsule, the flames would be circle-shaped because of the lack of gravity.
- Those dancing, colorful flames are more than just fun to watch since the colors can tell you a lot about the temperature of the fire. The red light emitted comes from the cooler parts of the fire, and the bluish-white flames signal where the highest heat exists
- Humans have been using fire for the last 1.5 million years
- No one knows who invented the fire hydrant because the patent was burned up in a fire?
The woodfire handbook- the complete guide to the perfect fire, Vincent Thurkettle, Mitchell Beazley 2012
Norwegian Wood chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian way, Lars Mytting, Maclehose 2015