For those of you who enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods and some hearty trail food after a day’s worth of pinecones and moss beneath your hiking shoes, this post’s for you!
But if you’re one of those “I’d rather nuke my pre-packaged processed junk food in the comfort of my air-conditioned palace while I’m playin X-Box” kind of people, then this post won’t interest you. Or probably any of your friends. Yeah, the ones you’ve never met, but talk smack to all night long on your little headset while pretending to destroy their imaginary world and kill off their little make-believe characters. But maybe I shouldn’t be so tough on those of you who live your lives vicariously through pixelated war-lords; hey, at least your thumbs are getting some exercise, right?!?
Back to the topic at hand – food prep while out in the woods. As I’ve discovered for myself, cooking on the ground can be a pain. God provides lots of rocks for whatever we choose to use them for, but I’ve yet to find one that’s as flat as my kitchen countertop. Thus, your stove and pots will tip and teeter until finally dumping themselves in the dirt. (If I had included the out-takes from this video, my point would be well proven.) The other option is just to set all your stuff on the ground, resulting in dirt and leaves sticking to anything that’s moist, and ensuring an almost instant path for the ants to ravenge more than their fair share of your dinner.
These used to be the only two options. Until now.
Introducing the “Tree Shelf.”
I’ve seen a few versions of this idea posted in various forums and on YouTube, but I wasn’t satisfied with the design or functionality of them. So I set out to see if I could come up with something better. The ideal tree shelf should be lightweight, compact to carry, quick & easy to set up, and sturdy once it’s in place. Here’s the result of a little time in the shop and some scrap metal . . .
There obviously needs to be further field testing to ensure the design will work reliably time after time. Such extensive field testing can consume hours and hours of time. Oh, the predicament I’ve put myself in . . . guess I’d better get busy!
After a busy week at work getting ready for the Katinas concert (which I must say went off without a hitch), I was looking forward to half a day off on Sunday afternoon. I envisioned myself using part of that half a day off to get outside, preferably in the woods – maybe hiking or geocaching, or maybe trying to find and explore some abandoned structures, cloaked from view by trees, yet clearly visible through the amazing eye of Google Earth. For me, nature offers an escape from the rat-race of life, and I always look forward to these moments, however brief, when I can get away and breathe in the relaxing smells and sounds and sights of the world as it ought to be – no schedules, no worries. Ahhhhhh…
So why then does my one half a day off have to be cold and rainy? After all, this is the first weekend in May! How do you spend a cold rainy Sunday afternoon? Well, not doing what I had planned, that’s how.
But all was not lost. My wife must have sensed my dispair, (or she got tired of my whining and pacing) and suggested that we could go for a drive in the bus. It may not seem like a big deal to most folks, but this simple activity of meandering around some back country roads in our old`73 VW is indeed on our top-ten list of things my wife and I both enjoy. (Ok, so we don’t really have ten things on our list yet, but we’re working on it. Even polar-opposites can find some common inerests.)
I reminded her that it might be a cold ride, since I had to disconnect one of the bus’s heat exchanger control valves a few weeks ago when it gave up the ghost after forty years of road grime, abusive mechanics, and hippie smoke. For those of you who don’t know a heat exchanger from a blinker fluid reservoir, let me simply say that on an old Volkswagen with an air-cooled engine, it’s the thing that sends warm air into the vehicle so condensation won’t freeze on the hippie’s bongs. For those of you who don’t know a bong from a ….. Oh, nevermind!
Despite my wife’s insistance that I’m a packrat, there are times when that tendency is beneficial. Since these control valves are no longer in production, a working replacement can be hard to come by. Except that I remembered I had a pair of spares in my shed – yes, that place where packrats chuck their junk until the day it is called upon – that glorious moment when it becomes suddenly valuable again. Today was that day. Twenty minutes under the bus, and we had heat again. Well, as much heat as you’ll get from one of these German wonders. But it was all we needed to spend some simple time together, enjoying what was left of our half a day off.