Sotol Fire Drill

Sotol Fire Drill

Survivalists! Ready to start a fire?  This short slideshow explains how to make a make a successful fire using a fire drill made from a sotol stalk.  First, select a dry sotol stalk.  Sotol grows all over central and west Texas from about Waco to Mexico.  Cut two sections, each about two feet long, from below the flowering head of the stalk.  Whittle a little off two opposite sides of the larger piece to use as a hearth stick. Make the hearth stick flat on two sides.  Then smooth the remaining piece perfectly round, and gently round the small end.  Make a notch in the hearth stick as a guide for the first drill hole.

Place dry grass under the hearth stick to start the spark. Hold the hearth stick steady by placing a booted foot on it. Set the spindle stick in the notch on the hearth stick. Twist the spindle between your palms under a wisp of smoke appears.  With a gentle, steady breath, blow on the base of the spindle a little bit. Twist the spindle faster and faster between your palms as necessary.  Blow gently on the dry grass and smoke as necessary.  When you achieve ignition, carefully remove the hearth stick and spindle, and gently fold the dry grass over in your palms as you pick it up.  Carry it to the kindling and wood you have already stacked for your fire and place the spark gently amongst the kindling.  Blow gently again as necessary to ignite the kindling.

The process is demonstrated here by Texas State University students from San Marcos, Texas, at a recent archeological research site in the Lower Pecos.  I am grateful to Vickie Munoz, president of the Texas State Experimental Archeology Club, and Peter Shipman  for sharing their expertise with us.

Similar fire drills can be made using yucca stalk instead, and possibly lechugilla, although I haven’t seen one of those yet.  Let me know if you have experience with lechugilla in this way.  I suspect it would work just fine.

This is one way to use a sotol plant, to get you started on the challenge I issued several days ago.  I’m still look forward to your ideas for ways to use this versatile plant.  Please leave your suggestions in the comments section below.


Cooking with Yucca

Here are two ways to use black yucca seeds in your not-so-survivalist cooking.  First, I gently toasted the seeds in a dry frying pan on the stove. Then I sprinkled some on a salad, seen below.  The next day I got a wild hare (hair? ) and ground them up as a coffee substitute.  I confess I did add a little real coffee as well.  The result was great.  Tasted like toasty coffee! Ok, friends and neighbors, please send me more suggestions for cooking with yucca or other native plants and uses for sotol!

How Many Ways Can You Use a Sotol Plant?

Sotol Plant of the Lower Pecos region of South Texas

Following the “Survivor” theme, if you were left by yourself in the Chihuahuan Desert with only a knife, how would you find food? shelter? water? shade? home?

Send me your lists of the various ways you could use a sotol plant, and I will publish the one with the most uses.  All parts of the plant are in play: roots, base, leaves, stalk, flowers, pollen.

Ancient people who lived in this area 4000 years ago or more used this plant as a main resource for food, weaving material, ceremonial material, walking sticks, oh I’m giving it away!  Give me your list in the comments section directly below!