Category Archives: scouts

A killer weekend getting back to what I believe in.

This weekend, I slept under these stars. It felt right.
If you’re wondering, it was shot at ISO 200
18mm-f/3.5 for 30 seconds on a D50. The picnic table was my tripod.
I’m especially proud of the big dipper.

That’s my tent on the left. My mom bought it for me for my birthday in 2008. That tent has been ERRYWHERES with me. It went east-to-west across northern Minnesota with me during the year that I gave up. It housed me and my wife at scout camp during her first summer there. It’s housed me on 48 weekend campouts so far, and it will serve me well on many, many more.

This weekend, it housed me at Philippo Scout Reservation in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. I was there for for my scouting district’s Order of the Arrow Conclave and it was AWESOME.

In which El Chris does legit farm work for like 25 minutes.

I’m white. I’m getting to be middle aged. I grew up in a white suburb FULL of people getting to be middle aged. I admit this freely. I also admit that I never, EVER worked on a farm. EVER. 

I was taking a break this weekend (since I’m an adult leader, I take lots of breaks) when a buddy of mine from Wood Badge walked past. 
“Hey El Chris,” came the cry. “How about we go unload that hay trailer?”

I really had no excuse other than “Wow, that sounds awful” so I went along. My back already hurt.

 We arrived at this mountain of hay on a cart. “Well this doesn’t look so bad!” I muttered to myself.

“Naw, it’s lots worse,” said Ranger Bob. “Ya’ll gon’ be unloadin that trailer behind you.” The chock full trailer behind us is the trailer shown below. Chock full of hay that might have dead snakes. This was going from bad to worse.

Our job was to make this nice large pile on the right and add it to the sloppy pile below and make it look good and ventilate so that dry rot doesn’t set in.

I started in. Then I quickly stopped. I had no gloves. I realized that chappy hands would a slothy El Chris make, and since I have soft little princess hands, they would get chappy FAST.
Ranger Bob got me some nice gloves. We went back to work.

 My buddies Darryl and Darryl were helping me out. Actually, I was helping them. I was about 25 years their junior and they gave me an ass kicking worthy of an elementary school playground. Hoo boy, did we move that hay. We cleaned up the receiving pile and then we threw the hay from the hay trailer. I got some on my skin and it was awful. I think it’s still in there.
The whole reason  I do this thing with Order of the Arrow to implant a belief in my scouts that cheerful service is a quality that a good man has. We LIKE cheerful service because it reminds us to remain happy in irksome circumstances. THAT is why I moved bales of Hay.
Sure, there’s good food that you can read about here, but that was hardly it.
We finished, and aside from some residual hay, we got through it just fine, thanks.

The boys dressed up in their OA regalia and said their lines FLAWLESSLY.  


 The boys took their roles seriously and delivered their lines well. VERY well.

Here’s an irksome task.

And here’s Derek drinking two cans of Mountain Dew
at the same time. He DID deserve them, in case you’re wondering.
If you look close, you can see him dribbling globules of Mountain Dew.
This guy had the least irksome task of all of them. I want his job next year.

Snagged this shot during the PERFECT blue hour. I couldn’t have BEGGED for it to look any nicer. I love this camp, I love being here, and I love know that it’s there. Thanks for the great weekend, and I’ll see you in 2 more.

 What’s your favorite place to camp?

Leave me a comment and I’ll let you know what I think! 


How to cook chicken parmesan for 100 people without dying in the face

In which El Chris makes a turd of himself taking too many pictures of food.

This weekend, I went camping. More on that later. Naturally, I had my camera and I made certain that all the cooking staff KNEW that I would be following them. All four of the meals were made in dutch ovens, and they were so good that my face melted straight off.


The Food God and Goddess were there (you’ll know her by her apron) and spearheaded some sweet meals, including mountain man breakfast and a killer set of dutch oven sloppy joes. However, those couldn’t hold a candle to the chicken parmesan they served for dinner. It was like Heaven landed on my tongue and then exploded. It was like a thousand Golden Retriever puppies were giggling inside my mouth. And it followed a VERY simple recipe that can be scaled to serve over 100 people, which is what we did.

To make it, you’ll need the following for each dutch oven, which serves 4 teenage boys or 6 normal people:

4 Chicken Breasts
4 Baguettes
1 package instant mashed potatoes.
Two 14.5 ounce cans of Italian-style stewed tomatoes (or just a crap ton of tomato sauce)
1 clove garlic (optional-ish)
1/2 Teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons of corn starch
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
1 big-ass can of corn
3 lb rigatoni pasta
Bag of charcoal
Tin foil or Foil liner (super optional)

1. Line up your dutch ovens. If you have one, I guess that’s fine. The liners placed in each oven made cleanup a snap, so get a bunch right now because I said so. Make sure you have 1 additional pot liner, as we will need the extra later.

2. Heat the dutch oven to 350. For a 12″ oven, that means you’ll need 24 charcoal briquettes total. Since we’ll be roasting the chicken, put 12 briquettes underneath, and 12 on the lid. Make sure you arrange the coals on the edge of the lid and not in the middle. This will ensure that the lid heats evenly. Just trust me. Do it this way or you’ll screw it up and probably die or something.

Careful, they’re hot and if you touch one then you’re stupid.

3. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes. By roast I mean put the lid (with coals) on the pot and go drink some Shasta. It better be Shasta.

4. While the chicken is cooking, you’re going to prep the pasta sauce. BECAUSE I SAID SO! GOD! In a seperate pot, stir all the ingredients together. That means you take the oregano, 2 cans of tomato junk, corn starch, and parmasan and stir them all together. I don’t care how you do it, as long as you stir the bejeepers out of it. Cook over medium heat or so the sauce is hot to the touch but not bubbling. It will thicken, like your hipster buddy’s love for crappy music.

5. Mix the sauce and cook it like so: 

Here’s a 4th picture of the pot with the same stuff.

6. Now we start the real prep. The cooked chicken is now in the dutch ovens. That’s a hard win, folks.

At this point, you should have a guy named Brandon you can yell at.
Do it. “GO OPEN THE CORN!” you can scream.

7. While Brandon is opening corn, you can spoon the delicious sauce over the chicken. You can do it like we did below, as long as you’re generous. You will have sauce left over, which is perfect for bread dipping.

At this point, The Food Goddess was offered a sacrificial lamb
and we waited impatiently to see her reaction.
She simply stirred.
She stirred some more and declared the sauce
fit for consumption. There was much rejoicing.
Then we poured much sauce onto much chicken.

In which El Chris watches Brandon make so much corn that El Chris will poop corn for a week.

You can now have Brandon heat the corn and dump it into a heaty thingy.

8. With the corn, as long as it’s been heated, you can serve it up. I like to heat it in the can (the can WILL take the heat from the stove, as long as you ditch the label so it can’t burn.) and then serve it from the can. It saves on dishes, but the electric heaty thingy was way handy.

9. While the corn and chicken are doing their thing, make the package of mashed potatoes. Mince and add the leftover garlic. Mix in some corn. Cover with surplus sauce while serving. Make new friends.

10. At this point, all of the chicken should be in ovens, ready to rock. Since they’re all in 12″ dutch ovens, cooking them should be a simple matter of counting. Twelve coals on the bottom, twelve on the top. Stack. The top coals on the first dutch oven become the bottom coals of the next. Brilliant, right? Now stacky stacky (no more the 4 high, you’re not superman.) and cook for another 30-40 minutes. While this is cooking, slice the baguettes into manageable pieces. The bread should be used to sop up extra sauce.

I know we’re cooking with 9 ovens here, but if you just have one, twelve
coals on the top and twelve on the bottom will be just fine, sir, just fine.

Sometimes, make sure the Food God pokes at them to keep them cooking.
He likes to poke stuff that’s burning.

11. About ten minutes before the chicken is done cooking, you can start making the pasta. To cook pasta, you boil it in water for 8-12 minutes. Put some in your mouth. Does it feel right? Then it’s done.
You can also taste (right, like put the food in your mouth and evaluate the results) the sauce and see if you like it. You can add a clove of minced garlic if you don’t like it and your wife says it’s ok, otherwise leave it be.

At this point, you will have a table full of ordeal candidates who demand food NOW. They will soon be appeased.

Paul was so hungry that he made eye contact with the photographer.

Despite our best efforts, Eric seemed oblivious to commands like

Loads of newly elected ordeal MEMBERS lined up to get their first
solid meal in 24 hours

This is what all of the fellas signed up for. They have been waiting for this for EVER. It’s totally worth it. Make sure you douse their potatoes in sauce and give them bread to sop up the extra. Each oven will supply 8-10 half-breasts-of-chicken.

Got any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments, a response is guaranteed.