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Clay Pots

By jstookey - Posted on 15 August 2013

A friend has been talking about survival camping lately, and brought up the question of how you could do something as simple as boil water if you didn't have a pot? A bit of Googling brought up suggestions like... Boil it in your hat. Find a rock shaped like a cookpot and boil it in that. Or, make a pot out of clay.

So anyway, today after work I had some free time so I tossed the kayak into my car and headed to the Anthony Kill between Round Lake and Mechanicville. I did not get far down the creek when I came upon a clay creekbank under the running water. Don't ask me know I knew it was clay but it was instantly recognizeable. Human survival instinct maybe?

I quickly switched plans. Forget kayaking. I'm going to collect a bunch of clay, take it home, build a fire in the backyard, and make a clay cookpot. I dropped a big pile of clay onto my sprayskirt in front of me in the kayak, headed back upstream to where the car is parked, and hopped out of the kayak. I held the skirt with both hands to nestle the precious clay in front of me, left the kayak where it was, and went to the car. Here is a picture of my skirt resting on the trunk of the car:

Opening the car door, grabbing a plastic bag, and putting the clay away without dropping everything was a difficult task indeed. Meanwhile as I'm standing there in a weird skirt and helmet another car pulls up. A man and his son get out with some fishing gear. I'm standing rather helpless resting my skirt on the trunk of the car, immobile. If I move, my payload is going to drop into the sand at my feet, ruining the clay. Dad says, "How's it going?". "Great", I respond. A puzzled look grows on his face as I awkwardly turn my neck 180 degrees to face him as best I can, covered in grey shmear, a pile of elephant crap in my lap. "What are you... Fishing?", he asks to which I respond, "I found this clay. I figured I would take it home and make a cooking pot with it." Realizing how odd this sounds, I try to make everything right by adding, "For survival".

On my way home, I pass a big sign saying, "eggplants 75 cents". I pull over, but alas, there are no eggplants left. Payment is made on the honor system, but there is almost no food and no money at the stand. A car pulls into the driveway, and a woman asks what I'm looking for. "Eggplants". She says, "I have white eggplants out back if you want some of those. They are just like the purple ones but sweeter". "Sure, sounds great".

She comes back with four mini eggplants. She takes a look at her stand which has no food and smiles saying, "there's nothing here! Somebody took all the food and the money". "That's terrible, I can't believe anyone would do that". She shrugs and asks for $1.50 for the 4 eggplants. I thank her and head home.

I mash up the clay a bunch. It's exactly like working with pizza dough so I am right at home. I make a nice clay pot with a lid, put it on a rock, and stick it into the fire. As soon as the edge of the pot starts drying, it forms a huge crack. The lid dries pretty quickly, with a decent crack in it.

Before long I grow impatient, and put everything close to the fire. Then even closer: I put the lid directly on top of the fire. Kaboom! The lid explodes. Crack pop kapow! The pot loses some large pieces. That was a bad move.

Time for plan b. I make a new pot. This time with a handle, shaped like the french onion soup crocks I grew up with. I'll just leave this one outside, let it dry in the sun and hope for the best.

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