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Campfire Ash – Part 2 March 27, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Several Scouting friends have recently asked me to provide more detail about how I collected ash for my boys. I have previously blogged about why I collect ash. Here is how I used ash to start a campfire ceremony, and how I collected ash and gave it away.

Starting Campfires – along with being a den leader, for two years I was our pack’s Outdoors Chair. One of the tasks I had the privilege of doing was starting our pack campfires. As I blogged about previously, as I started the fire, I would sprinkle some of the pack’s ash collection on the fire, and say some words. After the campfire was over, I took some of the campfire ash to add to the pack collection.

Collecting Ash – along with collecting ash for the pack, I collected theinfamousmugash from each campfire for my scouts. I was always there with my blue camping mug after a campfire to get ash (one time I forgot and drove away. I had to turn around and go back to the Scout camp to get the ash from the campfire ring). In the past few years in southern California we have started to douse fires to put them out, due to wildfires (before then, we’d just separate the coals and let it burn down overnight. Due to the persistent drought, we can no longer do this). So I would try to get ash when it was still hot with my metal mug and some pliers and heat gloves, and let it cool down overnight in the mug. But if I couldn’t get to it before it was doused with water, then I’d end up with chunks of wet coal that would need to be dried out on my workbench for a couple of weeks. (There are chunks of coal in the ash collection I gave the boys.)

Storing Ash – I would clean and keep pickle jars, mayonnaise jars, ash1or whatever jars I could. Once the ash was dried (if it came home wet), I’d store it in one of these jars, and I’d write the date of the campfire on the lid. This ended up taking a lot of room in my garage, so towards the end I started to put the ash in gallon zip bags, which took less space. I also kept a spreadsheet where I recorded the date of the campfire, the location of the campout, any interesting information (temperature, skit performed, noteworthy events, etc), and who in my den attended that campfire. I kept this from the beginning of our Tiger year to the end.

The Gift of Campfire Ash – after our last campfire at the end of the ashwriteupWebelos program, it was time to divy up the ash. I bought some small canning jars, and printed labels with each scout’s name and attached it to the lid. Then I reviewed the campfire attendance record and took a scoop of ash for each campfire that scout attended. Afterwards I made a write up of each campfire to give to the boys along with their jar, so they’d have a written record of what campfires they attended. 

Some attended all of the campfires, and received a full jar. Some only attended a few and didn’t get a full jar. But they all received the same challenge: keep adding to your campfire ash collection in Boy Scouts. Keep going to campouts and enjoying the outdoors.

I feel that collecting campfire ash is a great tradition. If this is something you are interested in, you can start now. With my first den, I didn’t start collecting until our Bear year. So I only had around two and a half years of ash to give out when we graduated. But that was enough to give away. Even if it’s the ash from your last campfire, that’s OK. The point of this is not to just give out the ash from all of their campfires, but to challenge them to keep in Scouting and add to it. It’s a visual reminder that the some best experiences in life are not in front of a T.V. or computer, but staring at the flames of a campfire with the sky overhead (or even with no campfire and just enjoying the stars and the fellowship).

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

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Comments»

1. Stefos Alevras - January 6, 2010

Dear Jeff,
thank you for the story and ideas. I used to be a Cub Scout leader in Athens, Greece until 1986, now my sons are a Scout and a Cub and I just help out at camps when needed.
I visited Boston many years ago, driving from California to the Great Lakes and seeing your magnificent National Parks on the way. The Ash tradition is not well known in Greek Scouting, I will spread the word !

2. Arlen Ward dot com » Days 69-71: Cub Scouts Outside - May 5, 2011

[...] at Brownsea Island in 1907. After I added the ashes to the campfire, I explained how we would collect some up after the fire was put out. I talked about how we would add those ashes to the campfire at our fall camping trip and collect [...]

3. Cecelia - June 3, 2011

When I was a girl in Girl Scouts I can remember having an ash bag and collecting ashes from the camping trips I went on. Unfortunately somewhere along the way I lost it or it go thrown out. Now I am a leader in Girl Scouts and taking my girls camping this weekend so I’m going to start a new ash bag for each of them.


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