Written by Joshua Low, Edited by Chey Jedd
On 27 November 2021, the Year 1 Ventures underwent backswood training. Being the first backswood session the Ventures had since the COVID-19 outbreak, it was a good opportunity for them to polish their skills which faded over the course of online training.
Backswood is an essential skill to any Scout. In a wilderness setting, it allows a Scout to be independent; to prepare his own food and care for himself. From the collection of firewood, to the building of a firepit and the final preparation of food, backswood tests a Scout's ability to multitask. It can act as an indicator of a Scout's skill in management and leadership. This is especially crucial to ensure cleanliness, hygiene and for the food to be ready within the allocated time.
The Ventures were split into 3 groups, each group tasked to cook a chicken using a different style, as well as prepare side dishes such as Bread Twists and Orange Eggs. The 3 styles of chicken selected were Bell Chicken, Lotus Leaf Chicken and Spatchcock Chicken.
The first step to a backswood session is turfing; preparing a fire pit. The Ventures quickly learnt the importance of planning ahead, such as planning where dugout soil should be positioned and how large a firepit should be. Catholic High Scouts aim to construct a tiered fire pit, where one segment of the pit is elevated. Such a fire pit can make the process of managing embers and food within the pit much easier, as food which requires less heat to cook can be placed at the elevated area instead of directly on the embers.
Different methods of cooking chicken have different pros and cons. The preparation to cook a Bell Chicken is more complicated, having to construct a makeshift oven to hang the chicken over the embers. However, it is compensated through its simpler and faster cooking process.
On the other hand, Lotus Leaf Chicken has a simple preparation process, having to only wrap the chicken in moist lotus leaves before leaving it to cook in the embers. Its cooking process is however more difficult, it is difficult to observe if the chicken is fully cooked and the chicken is prone to mix with burnt lotus leaves.
Spatchcock Chicken has neither a particularly complicated preparation or cooking process, it is limited by its simple cooking style which prevents it from achieving more creative flavours.
Leaving no trail behind
Following the words of Lord Baden Powell, Scouts should aim to leave any place cleaner than before they found it. Looking back on the turfing process, it ties in to this last step of cleaning up the cooking site. If the soil was carefully removed in a calculated way, filling in the fire pit to make it seem inconspicuous is a simple task. However, if the soil was carelessly removed, the fillings of the pit would seem chaotic and messy. The simple process of digging a pit and filling it back neatly shows how essential having foresight is.
Looking forward, the training gave the Ventures, especially those striving for President's Scout Award, a taste of what they will eventually face in their Venture Challenge Course (VCC). While the test seems far ahead for the Year 1 Ventures, it is only with foresight and early preparation that the Ventures can prove their prowess.