Lighting Charcoal With Something Unusual

Trying to look serious while talking in an upcoming video about lighting charcoal with feminine products…


Hi and welcome to the blog today!  It’s hotter than the devil’s dining room in Iowa and getting hotter.  Camping is not desirable right now.  On Friday and Saturday we are looking at highs in the upper 90s with tropical humidity.  Ugggg…  Well, there’s always next week.

One of the good blog friends recently mentioned using cotton balls and Vaseline to start a campfire.  This intrigued me.  I liked the idea because while carrying charcoal doesn’t bother me, lighter fluid is a safety concern due to the flammability.

During a Walmart visit yesterday an idea came to mind.  While passing through the feminine products aisle, I gazed upon the tampons and realized that they have a LOT of fibrous material that might make them useful.  Despite some chiding from a cashier friend, I picked up a box of unscented tampons and some store brand petroleum jelly.


Today I worked on the project.  The cats were intrigued but kept their distance.  After removing each fabric insert from the plastic tool, I used my fingers and a fork to separate the layers.  I tried heating up some petroleum jelly in the microwave but it never reached a very runny consistency.  Using gloves I rubbed jelly on the outside and pressed it into the absorbent material and worked it in into the outside layer.  The next step was to test the “igniters” in combat.


With the strings hanging out, I snapped a lid on this tray for later use.


Because it is so awful hot (and next week sounds much better!) I decided not to camp tonight; it was preferable to just grill out at the Wapsipinicon State Park in Anamosa.  There is a little pavilion which was perfect for the experiment.  Using a couple odds and ends of old bags of charcoal, I made a pile and put four of the “igniters” around the coals and one in the center.  They are a little slow to light but stay lit.



The devices burned for about 10 minutes each.  By this time the charcoal had started to take off on its own.  I’d would still recommend finding some small twigs to help the process along.  In any case, the coals took off and cooked the food to deliciousness… and the meal was pretty diabetic friendly, too!


The meat portions are shrinking as the heathy veggies are taking over.


The piece of meat was a small, lean flank steak gifted by the local food pantry.  Tenderized with salt and cooked slowly, it was tasty.  The large object at the bottom is a large stuffed poblano pepper – the best part of the dinner.  In planning a diabetic friendly meal, it was necessary to have a carbohydrate … and a terrific idea came to mind using a quinoa/rice pouch from the pantry.  I’ll post that below.  The yellow and green veggies were summer squash and zucchini squash cooked in olive oil and steak seasoning.

Larger and much less hot than a jalapeno, poblanos just don’t get the love they deserve… at least not in this country. I’ll take ’em over a bell pepper for stuffing!


Easy Cheesy Stuffed Poblanos 

4 large poblano peppers
1 pouch of prepared quinoa and brown rice (or whatever flavor you like!)
8 ounces shredded cheese (I like the bags of taco blended cheeses)
dash of hot sauce (if desired – not needed!)
2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil.

Very carefully cut the tops off the poblano peppers with a sharp knife.  Try to remove as much of the ribs and seeds as possible.  Be careful not to damage the sides of the pepper.

In a pan over very low heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Slowly cook the poblano peppers on their sides, rolling them gently every minute or two until they start to collapse and soften.  The peppers will darken some.  Gently remove from heat and set aside on paper towels.  Combine the cheese and quinoa (and any hot sauce or other seasoning) in a bowl.  Squeeze into a tight lump and stuff into each pepper.  Microwave 30 seconds or reheat the stuffed pepper in the pan for a short time to melt the cheese.  


That’s about all for now.  It’s going to be extremely busy at the gas station on Saturday night… and we only have three people that night – me, myself, and I.  Just up the road Chris Stapleton and Kendal Marvel are in concert on that night at the Great Jones County Fair…  It’s gonna get crazy – it always does – with all the drunk rural Iowa rednecks passing through.   Camping is sounding better and better next week!

Take care and thanks for visiting!  Certainly try the cotton ball idea or what I used.  The ladies’ accoutrements worked even better than I expected, despite the ribbing I got from that favorite Wal-Mart cashier.

Safe and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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6 Responses to Lighting Charcoal With Something Unusual

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    That tampons worked great. I haven’t even been able to try the cotton yet as this blasted heat just won’t allow for any camping and no fires are allowed until we get some much needed monsoon rains. Yes twigs and dried grasses will get you a faster fire.
    You meals are looking good. I’m happy!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! I hear ya about the heat. I saw a graphic today that said if you add in the humidity it feels hotter than the desert. We will get a break early next week. I will be somewhere for sure!

      Thanks for the note about the meals. It’s fun to come up with new ideas and the challenge to make it healthy is all the more fun. Take care and watch for the monsoons!

  2. Laurie says:

    I have made starters by filling paper egg cartons with sawdust (or those pine shavings used as animal bedding) then pouring in melted wax. The wax soaks the paper so after you cut them apart you can light the edge. This was for campfires tho…I don’t know if it would flavor food in a bad way? I hear you about this heat and humidity…we’ve had a couple good days here so today I’m going to cut a big hole in the sliding door of the van and put in a slider window…wish me luck!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Laurie! I hope the slider window goes well! That’s a cool idea about the egg cartons, too! I’m always using those scented wax cubes at the home base and thought …hmmm… but am not sure what they would do to the food. It’s finally cooled off here. I’m planning to go out Wednesday and enjoy a bit of the weather. Thanks and take care!

  3. my_vantasy says:

    Oh my…tampons and vaseline…that is an interesting combination. LOL The heat advisory was here this weekend and it was absolutely miserable. Today is cooler and I am hoping the upcoming weekend is good as The Little Dog and I are finally going camping. It is our annual pilgrimage to Lake Erie. We don’t fish, but I know the Lake is famous for walleye and perch.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! It’s cooled off a lot. I’ll bet you and The Little Dog will have a fantastic time! I hope it’s a great trip! Walleye and perch = yum! I love both. Tomorrow I hope to go camping if not too crippled up after work (10 hours with no breaks). The plan is for veggie kabobs (and also pheasant skewers). It’s just hot enough to leave Jenny at home. Won’t it be nice when the cool weather gets here? Take care! — VT

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