Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dangerous book for grown-ups

For the past couple of years the "Dangerous Book for Boys" and its companion the "Daring Book for Girls" have revived interest in some of the lost arts and traditions of childhood. We don't actually own either of these books, but I think our family tends to gravitate to many of these pursuits anyway. I have kids who can whittle swords and marshmallow sticks, tie secure knots, knit, build a wattle fence, rappel out of a treehouse, build an igloo and fold a mean paper airplane.

Recently on a message board I came across a post from someone who was having trouble getting her wood stove to heat up quickly in the morning. Her procedure sounded onerous and time-consuming. I posted my standard procedure:

"I start out with two medium sized logs, one on the left and one on the right. In between I put paper or birchbark. On top I put kindling. On top of that, like a roof built between the two large logs, I put a couple of pieces of smaller dry wood. And on top of that I put one larger log. So I basically have three large logs in already when I light the match. I touch the match to the paper and that's that. The paper lights the kindling, the kindling lights the smaller wood, and the smaller wood lights the logs. Doing it this way the stove only takes 10 or 15 minutes to start to really crank out heat."

It seemed like a really basic no-brainer technique. I've been laying fires outside and in fireplaces and woodstoves since I was a little kid and it never occurred to me that people would need to be taught this as adults. But several people wrote back and said that my explanation was a revelation to them, that they could now light a hot fire in no time and with a fraction of the fuss that they'd been experiencing before.

So I wonder if we need a "Dangerous Book for Grown-ups" that has instructions for basic 'simplicity' type skills that have nearly got lost in the past couple of generations. Things like baking yeasted bread, laying a fire in a wood stove, beating a rug, darning a sock, splitting firewood, changing an oil filter, building a backyard skating rink ...

What else do you suppose would be in such a book?


  1. Roasting a chicken, tying a necktie, changing a car tire, canning or preserving.
    Great Idea! I'd buy that book.

  2. Anonymous12:41 pm

    you would be the perfect person to write this book!


  3. sewing on a button:-)

    Great idea!!

  4. Victoria5:50 am

    I would love a book like that!

  5. Yes, we definitely need that book. I could have done with your hints at laying a good fire when I was at my cabin retreat in September!

  6. making your own mayo, shampoo and conditioner...


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