Do you have a favourite tinder? Some prefer cotton wool or birch bark shavings, others favour the lint from their tumble drier. Availability plays a large part in determining such preference and here in the clean air of the highlands the trees hang heavy with my own tinder of choice, beard lichen.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a Bushbuddy wood-burning camping stove for my birthday recently. These stoves really appeal to me on aesthetic and ethical grounds as they mean that I will be able to cook outdoors without needing to buy, carry or recycle gas canisters.
Caught up in a wave of enthusiasm for minimalist traditional firemaking I went to the woods to gather tinder and headed home, my pockets bulging with beard lichen. So eager was I for matchless fire that I put my minimalist principles to one side and microwaved the lichen to dry it out. To my surprise it caught light in the microwave oven, filling the kitchen with acrid, choking smoke and necessitating a long overdue scrubbing of the oven’s interior.
It seems perverse, but the first thing I did after carefully extinguishing the burning beard was to reignite it using my firesteel and boil up some water for tea on the Bushbuddy. I could have spared myself much effort (and fun) by using the microwave to heat the water!
So that’s my top bushcraft tip of the week – don’t microwave your beard lichen for any more than a minute.