Fatwood and Kids in the outdoors


Pine trees are the source of “fatwood”, or pitch, or lighter knot as it is called.

One of the joys of taking these kids to the great outdoors is showing them how to identify fatwood.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve dug up a pine tree stump from a dead tree for fatwood. Get 2 or 3 boys digging away and they’re up to their elbows in sand and dirt!


I’ve also noticed that sometimes fatwood isn’t only found at the “base” or joint of a branch of pine tree, but on a number of occasions have found decayed pine that has essentially turned the whole tree into solid pitch or fatwood. Very, very solid resin and heavy, you’d almost think you discovered a live branch because of the weight (wood is lighter if it has seasoned).  

How do you find fatwood? How to tell if you’ve found a fatwood stump?  Kick it.  If it doesn’t bend and is rock solid, that’s the first clue. Cut a little chunk with your hatchet or knife.  If it’s orange in color, BINGO….that’s it.  The true pot of gold of finding the resin rich fatwood is the smell. Life the chunk you just cut and sniff it.  The boys and I all make the AHHHHHHHHH sound when we smell it.  Smells like Pine Sol, only better!!

It would make a great incense if it didn’t burn so black.

Benefits of fatwood:
1). Phenomenal tinder for starting campfires.  I’ll usually slice a sliver, or make some shavings, or fetherstick with my knife and start it with a match.  Burns for several minutes to ignite your campfire as you add kindling and more wood.

2). Burns dark black smoke.  

3). Keeps bugs away

4). Doesn’t spark – inlike other wood that may spark when burning, fatwood doesn't

5). Bugs don’t usually borrow in it.  


Want to know what to do with kids in the outdoors?  Go fatwood hunting.  Kids love being outdoors, and searching!


Scott "Poppy" Rauber 


New Port Richey Painted Rocks Mission

Headed out to James E. Grey Nature Preserve Park last Sunday and stumbled on what my oldest grandson now calls….ADDICTING! We hunted for painted rocks in the local park! 

There's allegedly a facbook page for this, but I wasn't able to find it.  The deal is, find a rock (or more) and reloacate them for someone else to find and repeat.  I now have some hidden in the back seat of my truck surprise

I was first exposed to this “painted rock hunting” activity a couple months ago while at Starkey Wilderness Park.  I greeted a father and daughter as they passed through the firepit area and he volunteered that they were looking for rocks.  Well, being a rock knowledge center myself (lol) I replied, “there’s no rocks in Florida, it’s all sand.”  No, he said, painted rocks.  Oh, ok, uh, well, uh, no……haven’t seen any.

Back to last Sunday, we (my 3 grandsons – I know the amount keeps rising, just go with me) found like a dozen of these painted rocks in 2 New Port Richey Parks.  

We did a lot of walking, with our eyes focused to the ground, searching, scouring for more painted rocks. Now we have to go back outdoors to locate for someone else to find.

Finding painted rocks is addicting as I’ve seen more families “together” walking in the woods searching.  Hey, if the kids are getting exposed to the outdoors, that’s MACK to me!!

This is where we found out first painted rock, right next to the Cotee River at James E Grey Preserve.



Whatever it takes to get the kids outdoors!

Do it!






Ever since my grandsons were coordinated enough to pull on the blade of a camp/scout knife (Imperial, Camillus, Colonial, CASE) I’ve instructed every step of the way. (Oh, by the way, I STILL, TO THIS DAY, have the first knife they each opened.  Yes I do.  They’ll get them back when they get to the momento age).

The parents were nervous, I was, their grandmother was and I’m sure they were.  Soon after I allowed them to use and carry these camp/scout knives. Clear instructions on safe usage and storage was carried out.  Yes, one time two of the kids tested the sharpeness of their blade by rubbing the wrong way “down the edge” and received paper cuts, which I quickly bandaged and duct taped! Knife usage for ALL on the mission came to an end that day because of their lack of focus.

Today, they’ve graduated to fixed blade knives.

Which brings me to the MISSION LIFE FREE KNIFE GIVEAWAY!  I’d like each kid who’s venturing into the outdoors with an adult relative to carry a knife, but I can only ensure one, for right now (I’ll give away more later), will carry one.

I’ll pick ONE winner to WIN this Craftsman scout/camp knife (shown below including the lanyard) on 3/31/17!  



The knife is super loaded with patina, is razor sharp and top quality like all American made products used to be!

All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter, like, share, subscribe and do the social media dance.  You know the routine.

If you win and you already have knives to use, give it to another kid and tell them about Mission Life so they can escape the electronic trance!

And I'll throw in a Mission Life bumper sticker – FREE 


Help spread the word!




Kids & First Time Outdoors


First time outdoors with kids?…..make walking / hiking sticks

Maybe you’re not sure what to do if you take some kids to the outdoors.  Maybe you think the kids won’t like the outdoors.

Let me assure you, the kids will love the outdoors, especially if you call the trip a MISSION!!!

So, now what?  Your mind wonders what will we do when we arrive?

The first mission for us was, and has been for new kids I bring, to make a walking / hiking stick.  I wasn’t aware that finding / making a walking stick was on the outdoor agenda for our first missions but looking back at some early pics I can see it was.

Get yourself a Swiss Army Camping Knife because it has a saw blade that works like a real saw and that will be instrumental in future outdoor missions. Trust me!
Yeah, no, don’t buy an import at a local retail store for $3.99 that isn’t worth horse pucky.  Buy a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife model CAMPER


Couple tips on your walking sticks

-Use a dead branch (not from a live tree)
-Use the saw blade to cut to height
-Got duct tape?  Electrical tape?  Paracord?  – One afternoon my grandsons saw that I had different colored electrical tape lying around.  Can we put this on our walking stick Poppy?  We had a “Walking Stick Decorating Mission” that consumed all of an hour and a half! They were so proud of their custom outdoor tool, because it wasn’t just a walking stick anymore.

Kids will whack stuff with their walking sticks.  That’s what kids do.  Let ‘em.  As long as they aren’t whacking another individual or harming something, let ‘em have at it.

Oh, and back to the original question, “What to do when you arrive?”  The kids will figure it out, and the creative options in their inquisitive little minds will explode when they’ve found and made their own walking stick.  


Hurry…….get 'em to the outdoors on a MISSION!!




The Secret to Missions

The  Secret to Mission Life

Have more than one kid in the party! Although I have done some solo kid missions, but there’s more creation when there’s at least one other kid along on the mission!!

Nothing wrong with a one-kid mission, but the potential for ending early increases.  It happened to me once and my young fan grew tired of his “adopted Poppy” and wanted to go home, claiming to be tired.  Hey, I get it, I’m cool but not in his school….ya know.

The more kids you can gather for a time in the outdoors for a mission the better and longer it’ll go.  

The kids will feed off each other experimenting, exploring and creating, and that’s the secret IMO!

Below is a prime example. One kid found charred wood and smeared it on his face to be incognito. Then the next one and before you knew it……well, it's magic!

Missions are amazing and cheap/free outdoors fun, all you need is a park and some kids and some duct tape.  

Oh yeah, remind  me.


See ya in the outdoors!