Archive for May, 2012

Camp Cooking-The Good Old-Fashioned Bean Hole

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

As a child, I did a lot of primitive camping all over the United States. Everyone in the family shared the tasks that were involved in this activity. This included setting up the campsite, creating the bathroom area and the cooking. But as a child and even now, one of my challenges when it comes to camping is the cooking. I love to spend my days hiking, fishing and just spending time with nature instead of tolling over the campfire.

I will admit I have gone the route of the instant noodles to prevent me from having to “cook” but my great grandmother showed me a really great way of cooking while I was away enjoying nature’s entertainment. At this point, you may be wondering what this magical technique is and the answer is “The Old-Fashioned Bean Hole.”

A bean hole consists of a pit where a pot is place among coals and then the pot is buried. This approach acts like an oven, result is similar to what you get when cooking your instant pot white rice, and anything in the pot will be baked. Pretty simple. But before you jump for joy, keep in mind that a little work is involved in creating a bean hole.

Digging the Bean Hole

The bean hole needs to be dug so that it is twice as deep as the Dutch oven and one foot in diameter larger. Once the hole has been dug, place a few rocks or chain in the bottom of the hole. Place hardwood in the hole, light it, and burn it down until the hole is three-fourths full of hot coals.

Preparing the Beans

Ingredients

10-cups dried great Northern or yellow-eyed beans
1 pound salt pork or cooked sausage, crumbled or cut into strips
2 large white onions, chopped
2 ½ cups of molasses
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 teaspoons dry mustard, flavor of your choice
½ butter

Dried beans will need to be presoaked before cooking. Precook the beans while the hardwood is burning or the night before you plan to use the bean hole. In this technique the beans will only need to cook 30 minutes at a hard boil. Drain once the beans have cooked.

Next, take a Dutch oven and place salt pork or cooked sausage in the bottom. On top of this layer, place chopped onions and then add beans. Pour molasses on top and season with black pepper and dried mustard. Cut up butter and place on top. Once this is done add enough hot water to the pot to cover the beans by one inch. Place a layer of aluminum foil on the top of the pot and then cover with the lid.

Move the Dutch oven over to the bean hole and remove one third of the coals from the hole. After that is done, put the pot of beans in the hole and place the removed coals around the pot and on top of it. Fill in the hole with the removed soil.

After the hole has been filled in, let the beans cook for at least eight hours. This spare time is long enough to enjoy a day hike, fishing or just relaxing without having to worry about cooking.

So get out of the camp kitchen and enjoy the great outdoors with the help of the good old-fashion bean hole.

Learn How to Build a Hobo Stove Part I

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Camping in Africa 101

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Camping in Africa is an adventure for sure. After spending over 4 years living on the continent, I know first hand it can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. But, the rewards are definitely worth it—seeing African animals in their natural habitat, hearing local women singing and experiencing the unique cultures are all unforgettable experiences.

If you have camped in other parts of the world, you may be curious about how African camping compares to camping in America or Europe. This greatly depends on the countries you’re visiting, how long you plan to stay, and how adventurous you are. The truth is, there are very few areas that you can’t camp in Africa. And, generally, it is much more affordable than other parts of the world. This is especially true if you are willing to forgo some of the creature comforts and stay at locally owned campgrounds.

If you want to camp your way through Africa, here are a few tips:

African Cities

If you are traveling through big cities, you will likely find a campsite within the city limits. These campsites are often small, and may not be able to accommodate overland vehicles. Many times, hostels will offer camping in their parking lots or garden areas. Typically, campsites within cities are owned by foreigners—which make them more expensive, but you may also get amenities you are not likely to find in rural areas. You will likely find that most have hot water available (although it may be during limited hours) and electricity. They may also have on-site restaurants, which can be a nice way to take a break from cooking.

Security: You will see right away how secure your campsite will be based on how secure the property is. If it is a hostel, chances are they will have sufficient security.

Villages

In remote areas there are a few options. Many locals are capitalizing on the thousands of people that camp their way through Africa each year, and have created campsites. These locally owned and run campsites are typically basic—but are a great way to find tour guides and people that can give you insider tips on things to see in the area. If there is a local hotel, you can also ask if you can pitch your tent outside. We did this several times, once they didn’t even charge us—they just asked us to buy dinner at the local restaurant.

If no campsites are available, feel free to ask a local chief if you can camp in the village. They will likely welcome you and provide true African hospitality.

Security: If you are concerned about security, you can always pay someone to watch your tent. If you are paying to camp, likely it will include security. If you do have someone watch your vehicle/site, and there are no incidents, be sure to give a tip.

National Parks

Camping in National Parks throughout Africa can be surprisingly expensive. There are typically fees for entry and camping. Typically the entry fees apply to each day you spend in the park—in the Serengeti that can mean $50 per day per person, plus camping fees. Less popular parks will typically have lower fees.

Security: Security is likely to be very good within the National Park—keeping both animals and people away.

Bush Camping

If you are traveling through Southern and Eastern Africa, chances are you will be able to find campsites. But, if you are traveling in other areas, or if you do not make it to a campsite, you can “bush camp”. By pulling off the road, and pitching your tent you can camp in remote areas. If there is a village nearby, it’s always a good idea to ask permission.

Security: It’s good to be aware of your surroundings while bush camping. Chances are you will be left alone, but there is always the chance of wild animal sightings!