In Praise of Wild Camping : Vachel Lindsay on a haystack

Vachel Lindsay

The poet and writer Vachel Lindsay was a friend of the great Stephen Graham (see Graham’s entry in my ‘In Praise of Wild Camping’ series) and went tramping with him across the US Rockies back in 1921.

Lindsay would often roll-up at farm houses during his tramps and recite poetry in return for supper and permission to camp out on the farmer’s land (or better still a bed in the farmhouse).

The quote below comes from his book ‘A Handy Guide for Beggars – Especially Those of the Poetic Fraternity’ written in 1916.

About four o’clock I had made good my escape. I had begun to mount rolling, uninhabited hills. At twilight I entered a plain, and felt a new kind of civilization round me.

It would have been shabby in Indiana. Here it was glorious. They had whitewashed fences, and white-painted cottages, glimmering kindly through the dusk. Some farm machinery was rusting In the open. I climbed a last year’s straw-stack, and slept, with acres of stars pouring down peace.


Haystacks (Cambridgeshire)

Have YOU ever camped out the night on a haystack?
If so, what was it like? Answers below please : )

Homage to the IKEA Hobo Stove

A hobo having lunch

A hobo enjoying a cuppa (image from Popular Mechanics May 1916)

Hobo stoves have been around for a long time. Ever since the first hobo jumped a freight train the lonesome traveller has needed a quick and easy way to brew up a cup of tea.

Generally speaking, hobo stoves are put together with discarded tin cans.  The top of the can is removed, small holes punched around for air and a large opening on the side for fuel.

Kindling, followed by larger sticks and such like are dumped into the can and after a while a hearty and warming fire is chugging away.

I first heard of the IKEA hobo stove via the bushcraft community.  It seems that some bright spark had noticed the IKEA cutlery drainer could be easily converted into a hobo stove, all it takes is a metal cutting tool for the large opening, everything else is ready and in place.

IKEA Cutlery Drainer

IKEA cutlery drainer

Lacking a metal-cutting tool I went to Ebay and quickly found someone selling them at the very reasonable price of £10, with a few bushcrafty type bits and pieces thrown in and a nice canvas bag to carry it around in.

Okay, I KNOW a hobo wouldn’t pay £10 for a stove, let alone one from IKEA that actual sells at £2.5o but that’s not the point of this post.  I’m paying homage to the stove not the hobo and I just love the idea of re-purposing things and then re-using them in ways completely unexpected by the original producer.

IKEA Hobo Stove in action

IKEA Hobo Stove in action in Thetford Forest

Anyway, I purchased the stove and quickly put it to use on a hike around Thetford Forest one spring day last year.  The kindling caught ablaze quickly and in no time I had a roaring little fire going and water boiled up for a cuppa tea in about five minutes.  Oh, it was wonderful, the smell, the heat, the glowing orange and red of the flames.

Earlier this year I took it out with me on a wild camp and it served me well, giving heat for tea and supper and then keeping me company in the dark wood on my own.

IKEA Hobo Stove on a wild camp

IKEA Hobo Stove on a wild camp

The IKEA hobo stove is relatively lightweight and is very robust.  Sure, it could be lighter and doesn’t fold down to the size of a CD cover (like the excellent honey stove) but on the other hand it doesn’t require careful handling nor does it have fiddly bits that need slotting together.  Once the fire is out it cools down very quickly and can be packed away with minimum fuss.

There isn’t really a downside to this fine stove, I heartily recommend it.

In praise of wild camping : Stephen Graham by a river

Stephen Graham’s ‘The Gentle Art of Tramping’ (1927) is a little gem of a book that celebrates the life lived outdoors, roaming free, wild and without a care.

“Tramping”, Graham tell us, is;

“first of all a rebellion against housekeeping and daily and monthly accounts.  You may escape from the spending mania…in tramping you are not earning a living, but earning a happiness”.

This is much the way I think about wild camping.  It’s one of the few activities left that hasn’t been occupied by consumerism and the constant demand to spend and buy.  Sure, you might need to purchase some kit and stuff but the actual doing of wild camping is absolutely free.

In the book, and the reason for this post, Graham describes the joy of a wild camp by the river:

“There is a strange and wonderful vigilance about the river which rolls past us where we sleep in the grass, murmuring and calling the whole night long, something of the vigilance of the starry sky. You sleep, but an eternal sleepness sentry paces by all the while.”

I’ve only wild camped once by a river and it was a slow-moving East Anglian (the Wissey) one which hardly made a sound, the occasional squabbling of ducks  was all I could hear.  But I know what Graham means, I could most certainly feel the presence of the river.

Sunset on the River Lark, Cambridgeshire

Sunset on the River Lark, Cambridgeshire

This is the second appearance of Stephen Graham in my ‘In Praise of Wild Camping‘ list, you can see his other at Stephen Graham in Russia.

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