Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.
We love camping, so even when the house is completed, we want to have a spot hidden in our woods where we could build a small fire and pitch a tent to sleep outdoors. With this in mind, we set out on a cool day to turn a deer path into a smoother, human path and build a campsite.
With machete and clippers in hand, we manually cleared brush and branches, following a trail made by deer traversing our property. Our destination: a large, flat clearing on high ground in the woods. The spot was already pretty open, as if it was just waiting for us to find it and use it for this exact purpose. The ground we chose is surrounded by a natural moat, which is really a deep ravine that is usually dry, but does hold some water after heavy rains. It was to be our super-secret, super-special camping spot, protected from the elements by the trees (and from attacking zombies by the moat).
When we had cleared the path up to our chosen site, we set about also clearing the debris and brush from three wide circles of ground. This way, we can have a few friends out to camp, and everyone can set up tents and sleep comfortably (or at least without twigs and brush beneath their sleeping bags). Most of the brush was about knee-high, so the job went pretty quickly. We raked the ground to be nice and even, and within a few hours had created a sweet little camping spot.
And what does every truly awesome campsite need? A place to sit around a fire, telling stories while dinner (and breakfast the next morning!) simmers in a Dutch oven over the flames. The ravine is full of small- to medium-sized stones, so we gathered up a couple dozen to make our campfire ring. Tyler dug out a circular pit, then we set the stones up around it, dug in a half-circle grill to use over the fire, and — voila! — we had created our own little campsite. While Tyler dug, I gathered dead, fallen wood into a nice pile, which we keep covered with a tarp so the wood stays dry and ready for burning in the pit.
One afternoon’s work was all it took to make our little camping haven, and we couldn’t be happier about all the s’mores in our future, shared with friends who also enjoy a night under the trees and stars next to a cozy campfire flame.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer and Tyler by leaving a comment below!