Saturday, October 3, 2015

COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part three- “Once the cast iron is ready how do I keep it that way ?” As a child here in these Ouachita mountain’s I discovered that there were some pretty cool secrets to be gleaned from a visit to Grandma’s kitchen. However this neat trick came from helping Granpa’ as we processed a couple of fattening hogs for the freezer. Grandpa deftly removed a couple of hog’s tails and handed them to me, saying that I should take them to Grandma’ who was preparing some of the hog’s finer cuts in the kitchen. When I asked if she was going to cook up the hog tails, she laughed out loud, put a small slice of fresh buttermilk pie on the table and said to me, “wash up and snack on this while I tell you a story.” Now, Grandma’s story was a trip back in time to life in the mountains between the two world wars when times was hard and life was a bit “catch as catch can”. The short of the story is that most mountaineer’s cabins had a pig tail on a string hanging from a nail up on the wall behind the old wood cook stove. After cleaning the cast iron, it was warmed on the stove and the pig tail which was almost all fat, would be rubbed all over it to keep it oiled up and rust free. He, he, now, there are ever so many reasons that we aren’t doing it that way now a’ day’s ! But the main principle of the story is the way to have your cast iron ready for it’s next outing. It just needs a light sheen of oil wiped on it while warm, using a paper towel. Then it is ready for storage. Yep, it is just that simple, pig tail not required !

Sunday, September 20, 2015


COOKING WITH GRANDMA’S CAST IRON COOKWARE A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part two – Re furbishing, seasoning and maintenance Because of it’s very nature, our much beloved cast iron cookware can get a light haze of red rust on it before you know it. Especially here in the humid deep south. A light haze is readily removed with a scouting pad and cooking oil while the cast iron is warm. Wiping with a white paper towel and light cooking oil will let you know when you have removed it all. Here is a quick 17 second video of the finished and ready to use cookware. A slightly heavier coating of rust may be removed with a more abrasive scouring pad followed by the paper towel wipe down process. Deep pit’s in your cookware can sometimes be addressed with a rotary brush or a grinder. However, it must be remembered that one of cast iron cookware’s most endearing trait’s is that it heats evenly across it’s entire surface. Any thin spots that are made during the restoration process can cause it to burn, discolor and/or stick. Excessive grinding can ruin cast iron leaving you with only a cool display piece. Our favorite seasoning method, except for the seasoning of brand new cast iron, is to deep fry in it, for example, having a fish fry at the end of a camping or fishing trip. Then carefully wiping the cast iron clean while still hot. Keeping the cookware carefully oiled seems to work best and always when warm so that the pores are open to receive and retain the oil. Maintaining that great finish during storage can be tricky, but gets much simpler when it is stored in a temperature/humidity controlled environment. Because we prefer that the outside of our cookery stay campfire ready and some what smutted up, we store and transport our cast iron in heavy coarse fabric shopping bags, making it easier to handle and it keeps the smut from transferring to other things in the storage area. One of Betty’s little tricks for keeping the rust at bay is to collect the desiccant capsules, that we find in many over the counter meds such as antacids, put them in a sock and drop them in the cookware before closing the lid tightly. When the desiccant becomes less effective, she bakes them dry to re-use them.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT REFURBISHING AND USING CASTIRON BY LARRY & BETTY HARMON Part One -“I found Grandma’s Dutch Oven in storage all rusted up, now what ?” Every time you saw it while in storage, it put a smile on your face as you remembered those delicious treats that Grandma’ surprised everyone with, when you were a kid. Then after that smile, the next thought was, “it looks rustier every time I see it, I sure need to do something with it”. But, just what, you might think. Most of us have helped with and been around Dutch oven cooking off and on for years, but looking at a rusty Dutch oven can leave us scratching our heads, about just what needs to be done next. Here is a quick video we took during our last boondocking fishing trip that addresses cleaning, seasoning and putting cast iron back in service. In this case we used a little cooking oil and fine rock salt to work out the surface rust and restore the finish. Pre heating the cast Iron is important in that it opens the pores of the utensil. You may note at the end of the video how the Dutch oven and lid have started to get a polished oil look to it. In this video where Goga is scouring the oven with a brush, you can see that the neatly kept campfire of Opa Ohoyo and Goga uses both wood and charcoal briquette’s and is just a pretty tidy setup. Some folks prefer that the outside of their oven is not scoured but is instead, left in it’s natural campfire smoked condition and that is the case here. . This particular oven does not have the cast Iron legs on the bottom and it must be used with a campfire grille as it is in the video.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART SIX OF A SIX PART SERIES By Larry Harmon fresh water / black water handling techniques Use of gravity to transfer fluids under boondocking conditions is not practical in many campsites. A couple of transfer pumps can make moving fresh water and black water simple. However those pumps need power and we solve that issue by using a battery jump start power pack on our twelve volt pumps. We clip the color coded power cables to the pump’s negative and positive wires and turn the pump on and off with the power pack’s front panel switch. Our FRESH WATER PUMP is a salvaged pump that had started leaking in the pressure cut off switch’s diaphragm. Instead of throwing it away we converted it into our transfer pump using twelve dollars of hardware store brass fittings, a bit of Teflon tape and our fresh water pump is ready for action. Using water hose fittings we connect our transfer pump and white hose to our trailer mounted tank to put water into our camping trailer. Our transport barrel, complete with brass hose bib to hook up to, cost $40, At a local farm and supply, making it the least expensive of the two pumps. Our BLACK WATER pump is a MACERATOR that we bought new off of EbAY. It and a “roll up flat” 5/8” hose designated for black water only, cost in the neighborhood of $200. Using the macerator pump we can pump black water up hill for short distances. Once again using the power pack and it’s switch for a power source. We chose a macerator that came in a plastic hard case for weight and storage considerations and the reel up, lay flat hose for the same reasons. Our BATTERY JUMPSTART PACK was purchased at a discount tool supply for about $60. We have hauled it many thousands of miles while constantly charging and discharging it under rigorous conditions. A quick word of advice about the power pack. It can have a small inverter and an air compressor built into it as well as a work/safety light and a 12 volt power outlet. This is a place where we felt it well advised to spend a little extra to get one with all of the features that we thought we might need. We even use this battery pack to power up our twelve volt impact wrench that we use during a flat tire change.

Monday, August 3, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART FIVE of a six part series by Larry Harmon

BOONDOCKING PART FIVE Of a six part series by Larry Harmon Extended stays and support methods When you are in your favorite primitive campsite and the ranger comes around to say that your twenty eight day stay will be up tomorrow, and you immediately think, “so soon ?”, you likely have a good system of extended support figured out. In addition to our camping trailer we pull a boat and a small support trailer to our favorite primitive campsites. That trailer has a black water tank and a fresh water tank on it and we will make a short trip to the nearest dump and fresh water fill station every couple of weeks. For many this just isn’t practical and they carry water in a roof top fresh water bladder or jugs, then tow the trailer to dump black water as needed. If your camper is a larger one that it isn’t practical to pull out to a dump station, black water tanks come in various sizes and brand names such as “sani tote” and weight can be an issue for transporting them, for example, at roughly eight pounds per gallon, a thirty five gallon “blue boy” might be more than one would want to handle. Putting the portable black water tank on a receiver hitch cargo carrier works well for dumping, but, may be too high to gravity fill directly. Macerator pumps can solve the problem of getting the black water from the camper to the portable tank and they may be powered from a Jump start battery pack or a trailer plug. We prefer the jumper pack for power because we use it to power up other things around the campground. Generator size can relate directly to your camping style and I tend to look at it this way. Need a microwave, air conditioning or maybe a hair dryer ? Then you need to bring a big generator and a big gas can for it. Most folks can quite readily camp for extended stays with a small quiet and fuel efficient one thousand watt generator that they run sparingly in the morning and maybe in the evening. Ours uses about half a gallon of gasoline in eight hours or roughly four days. Betty and I just completed an extended stay at a lake and it was ever so fine sleeping with the windows open listening to the loons calling across the lake was so wonderful !

Monday, July 20, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART FOUR Of a six part series by Larry Harmon

USFS / BLM / USCOE AND SOME DIFFERENCES THEREIN. Boondocking in these areas is a very cool thing that allows us to enjoy Mother nature’s splendor in a up close and personal way. However each of those agencies have a set of specific requirements that cover the whole spectrum of activities during your stay. Many of the core values for those agency’s are the same, but, and now, that is a big BUT, each of the various Ranger districts can be ran as a small kingdom all unto it’s self, with the ability to adjust the regulations to suit the needs of that particular area. LENGTH OF STAY has a direct impact upon the area and may be regulated individually, but the general rule of thumb is fourteen days then you must move on out. How many additional days that you may stay for the remainder of the year can and often times does vary widely. ELEVATION will often dictate your style of camping because of wide temperature changes from season to season coupled with whether the area is arid, moist or maybe even in monsoon season. Each agency is good to post the individual area’s rules and regulations, so it is a good idea to spend a few minutes to pause and read how that may affect your visit. A quick check in with other campers in your chosen area will get you up to speed on particular’s about distances for dispersed camping and surface discharge of grey water and it’s various acceptable or non-acceptable, local methods. Each district office is a great source for maps, brochures and information about cool features in that area. Sometimes the USFS and BLM share offices in a given area.
USCOE lakes are almost all power generating and flood control lakes that have built up campsites, some with full hookups and some with partial hookups. In the heartland the USCOE many times, has primitive campgrounds with bare bones amenities such as picnic table fire ring and lantern pole, that are in remote locations and there is no charge to stay there. They are usually not advertised and campers depend upon word of mouth to learn of them. USCOE LAKE LEVELS CAN VARY WIDELY, chose your campsite wisely, after observing the high water marks left behind by previous high lake water levels. USFS and BLM lease land for livestock grazing in many western states and livestock can come to visit on occasion. Sheep in these areas are normally accompanied by a sheep herder and his camp wagon. Cattle normally free range and are checked upon by a stockman that is in a pickup with a horse trailer. Both of these stockmen are great sources of local information and because of the solitary nature of their job, will usually chat freely, giving you a perfect source of cool local stuff to see and visit. COYOTE’S, all of the various agency’s campgrounds seem to have a chronic Coyote problem. They are seldom seen and only occasionally heard, but they are there. An unattended pet is at jeopardy and coyotes are serious predators. Though we have covered a lot of ground, we have barely scratched the surface so far as USFS, BLM & USCOE bondocking is concerned. Our time spent boondocking with them is our most fun, memorable and continuous learning adventure that we enjoy. Safe travels and happy bondocking !

Monday, July 6, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART THREE of a six part series by Larry Harmon

Stretching your resources Just suppose that it is a holiday weekend, one of those cool three day holiday’s. You are used to boondocking for Friday night, Saturday and leaving back to civilization on Sunday. But now, you have an extra day to unwind and commune with nature. Most of us only have a limited amount of storage space in our camper and that means packing extra stuff can be a challenge. Boondocker’s have so many clever ways of stretching their resources that we could never cover them all in our limited space, so we will touch base with some of the more common ways and let your imagination be your creative guide.
WATER is heavy, takes up a lot of space and in some places it is not readily available. Under those challenging conditions, bringing it with you is necessary. Since your fresh water tank can only hold so much, many boondocker’s look for a way to make that weight count twice. Freezing gallon jugs of store bought water gives you long lasting blocks of ice for your ice chest that can be used for drinking or cooking after it has melted. a. Bathing, shaving and other chores can be done with a small amount of water in the sink using a wash cloth. Most commonly refer to this as a “spit bath”. As molded fiberglass enthusiast, Betty and I usually do a very quick wet down, soap down and rinse off that goes like this. Put plug in sink b. Adjust shower water temperature catching that water in the sink c. Put shaving lather in the sink water to warm up d. Wet down then turn the water off at the showerhead to keep the temperature unchanged e. Lather down f. Rinse off, turn water off This method can be stretched even one step further and is popular in the arid desert southwest. Catch the gallon or so of shower water in the shower floor pan with a stopper and add Epsom salts for soaking the tired hiker’s feet. GREY WATER storage can be extended in some arid areas operated by the U S Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management if your campsite is well away from streams or reservoirs and you carefully surface discharge your grey water. In these situations it is advisable to check with the local Ranger to insure whether or not it is a local custom. BLACK WATER by it’s very nature must be handled very carefully. Most camper’s have enough black water storage for a week or more, so an extended weekend will not create a issue there. If handling black water is necessary many deem the “blue boy”, “EZ TOTE” or similar container as the safest way to handle the black water. PROPANE is a bit more difficult to stretch, but the main ways that most boondocker’s use is reduced hours of use, cooking over a, open fire, or using a small generator for heat or cooking power source. For most camping trailer’s an extended weekend is not a propane issue. GASOLINE for a small generator as well as PROPANE give some cause for safety concerns and those folks seek other methods that can sometimes be difficult and or expensive. FOOD is space consuming and it’s weight has been addressed by the back packing community quite handily. The easy and convenient solution is to go the dehydrated route which makes many meals fit into a small light weight space. CLOTHING is also handled by back packers quite readily. The secret is light weight layered high tech fabrics. Here’s hoping that these few simple hint’s help you on your journey to a enjoyable extended boondocking experience.