We have a tall pine that stands proud just outside of our little barn which we collect all of the windfall pine cones from. They scatter all over the yard making them easy to fill a bucket or two ready for all our fire lighting needs. You can find pine cones on the woodland floor most of the year round, so they shouldn’t be hard to come by.
Today we’re going to show you how to while away an afternoon turning your pine cone bounty into something incredibly useful. These little fire starters are great fun to make and can be used to light your log burner at home or to fire up the pit for a cookout.
By using any old candle or crayon stubs, we can slow down the burn of the pine cone giving us a fire starter that will burn for up to 2-3 minutes. One pine cone fire starter should be plenty for each fire but add more as needed depending on your conditions.
Try to make all of your additional tinder foraged or not as fine as possible. Pull single fibres apart and ruffle everything together, this will hopefully make it much easier to light our fire starter.
Dry pine cones
Leftover candle wax, crayon stubs, beeswax
An old pair of tongs
An old baked bean tin
Piece of baking parchment
Old man’s beard, birch bark, cat tail seed head, dry grasses – any super dry natural materials really
Finely shredded paper, jute cord or cotton wool
If you can only find wet pine cones place them in a low oven until they feel dry and have opened up. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.
Whilst out foraging for your pine cones also look for any other natural tinder you can get your hands on – birch bark, old man’s beard, dry grass, straw, cat tail seed heads or super dry.
Place a handful of the wax, crayon stubs or beeswax into your clean baked bean tin and place into a shallow pan of simmering water or over the gentle flame of a campfire. Melt gently stirring to dissolve everything (you can stir the wax with a stick so you don’t ruin your cutlery).
Using the tongs pick up your pine cones one at a time and half dip in the warm wax, allowing the excess wax to drip back into the bowl. Place on the baking parchment and carefully scatter over or wrap around your other bits of foraged tinder before the wax sets hard.
Allow to dry completely before placing in an airtight tin.
If your added tinder is fine enough you may be able to light your pine cones with a shower of sparks from a ferro rod otherwise light them with a match.
Before you set off there are a few foraging guidelines to keep in mind to avoid any injury to yourself or the natural habitats you encounter.
Always forage small amounts for personal use, leaving adequate produce for animals and insects to indulge on, as well as other foragers!
Only eat something if you are 100% sure of its identification, as some plants can make you unwell, or worse still – some are even deadly. Books are very helpful for this; one of our favourites is ‘Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland‘, ‘Food for Free‘ and ‘The Forager’s Handbook‘. Websites and social media groups can also be helpful, but make sure you trust the source entirely before you eat your finds.
Only forage from plants that have produced plenty of fruit as the plant depends on this to reproduce.
Choose carefully how you access your foraging finds. Avoid crushing plants and habitats underfoot whilst hunting for wild foods.
Avoid taking too much twig and never uproot a plant so that it is always able to regrow after you have foraged from it.
Your foraging kit should include – a small legal carry knife or secateurs, gloves to protect your hands from plants that may sting (the humble nettle) and thorns, and a basket/container or three. Don’t forget to wear long trousers and long-sleeved tops to protect your arms and legs from natural nasties such as ticks (find out more about ticks here.)