Tenting Tips from Beet Baily

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Tips from Beet 
Beatrice (Beet) Bailey is a full-time tent dweller who divides her time between Arizona in the winter and Colorado in the summer, working as a campground hostess.  “I started out volunteering in BLM campgrounds and found tent life so agreeable that I soon became a full-timer.”  Along with a free campsite, she receives a modest stipend from the park service which she augments by occasional work as a gardener.

The sand bag garden
“At the Crested Butte campground in southern Colorado I put in a sand bag garden every summer behind my tent.  The rangers don’t mind because the garden is easily removed at the end of the season.  I fill sandbags with a mixture of compost, forest duff, soil, and a little potting mix.  I also put some absorbent cotton waste, such as an old wash cloth or a diaper, into the bag to help hold moisture. 
After loosening the ground with a pitch fork, I punch some holes in the bottom of my filled bags and set them on the loosened soil.  Then I split the top of the bag with a knife, just enough to insert the seedlings.  Usually I grow cherry tomatoes, beets, carrots, kale, radishes, herbs, lettuce, and spinach.   I run a couple of strands of filament fish line around the garden to spook the deer, and then lay some mesh garden netting over the plants.  
For irrigation I run a soaker hose over the sandbags.  The hose is fed by gravity from a 55-gallon drum sitting on concrete blocks.  This garden is practically maintenance free, and enough to supply the stew pot and the salad bowl for most of the summer.”
  On the road with Beet 

When I travel I picnic.  No fridge, of course, no ice chest, and no stove either.  Crackers and cheese, yogurt, fruit.  Salad oil spray on carrots, cukes, radishes and baby spinach.  Soy milk and cereal.  Sometimes “overnight oatmeal,” which is rolled oats and cold soymilk left overnight in a Thermos, ready to eat in the morning, with berries and a banana.  Baked, salt less corn chips and hummus or tofu spread.   Every meal a picnic in the open air.


Even in camp, to save on propane, I go long periods without much cooking.  I blanch.  Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, go into the big steel bowl and get soused with boiling water.  The veggies are lightly al dente, and any clinging e-coli wiped out.


Solar power for dishes
“In the morning I set out four or five plastic water jugs in the sun.  By afternoon the water is warm enough to wash the day’s dishes.  I wash in one plastic dish pan, with a drop or two of soap, and rinse with cold water in another pan.  The Crested Butte campground has hot showers, but at other more primitive campgrounds I heat my shower water in the same way.  Of course on the rare cloudy day I have to use a little propane to warm up the dish water.”
Glass Tupperware
“I prefer glass for my containers so I recycle glass pickle jars for Tupperware and food containers by wrapping them in duct tape.  If I drop one the tape keeps the broken glass from going too far.  The glass is also free of chemicals that might infuse the food.  And for a canteen I use a wine bottle with a screw top.  I put the bottle in an old unmated sock for a little insulation and protection.”
No fridge, no ice

 In thrift stores and at garage sales I’m always looking for the glass or stainless steel-lined Thermos.  I use these for camp refrigeration without electricity.  A frozen package of green peas, corn, or blueberries poured into a Thermos bottle will stay chilled three or four days, the usual time between trips to the grocery.  If it promises to be particularly sultry, I wrap the Thermos in a wool sweater and stick it into a cooler for added insulation.  I don’t use dairy other than a little powdered milk in black tea.  I’m not strictly vegetarian but I only eat beast flesh, usually Pisces, on the day I hook it.  I use up the frozen veggies first, then go to the sandbag garden for fresh, or to the root cellar (another garage sale cooler) for yams, sweet potatoes, winter squash or rutabagas.  I have never had a utility bill and buy ice only for company (to chill wine or juice).
Lights, computer, Blackberry, iPod

My tent light used to be an incandescent car headlight bulb wired to a motorcycle battery.  I’ve switched to LED, which means I can get by on a much smaller battery, one that weighs a few ounces and fits in my hand.  A string of 12-volt white Christmas LED lights illuminates the interior, along with a LED reading light.  I recharge these from the lighter plug in my tiny Honda Seppuku, using the usual inverter and trickle charger.   I also charge the cell phone and iPod from the car battery.  I have a DVD player in storage but don’t use it much.  These are my only needs for electricity.  
What about the washer/dryer?

My usual uniform is simple, jeans and a shirt or blouse.  I wash these in a medium-sized tub using a rubber toilet plunger attached to a broom handle.  I add a drop of cold water soap, give the broom handle about fifty good strokes, rinse the clothes, wring them out, and let the sun do the rest.
Insulating the tent

At a garage sale I picked up some wool Army blankets.  I sewed four of these together to make a giant blanket, and when the Colorado nights get chilly I throw it over my tent underneath the rain fly.  The tent has to be ventilated to do this. Two things I purchased new were the goose down sleeping bag and the mattress, which I transport on the top of my car, under the kayak.
My friend Sally Walks-with-Tom (wife of Tom Walker) is also a full-time tenter.  To make their queen size bed more portable, she has cut the foam mattress into four pieces which fit inside a mattress cover.  The top sections that go under the shoulder and back are a foot longer that the bottom sections which go under the legs and feet.

Health insurance 

Don’t have it, can’t get it.  I’m blessed that I’m young and healthy, no bad habits, safe sex only, good genes from mom and pop, and I’m an excellent driver who has never got a ticket.  One thing I’ve done is double the medical part of my low-cost liability auto insurance.  I figure the most likely big hospital bill for me would be the result of a car crash in my tiny compact.  Now I’m covered for ten grand in medical bills instead of five.   


Have a life.  I pay no rent.  I have no mortgage, no utility bills, no debt, no money worries, no home maintenance problems, no stocks or bonds, no children, no mean bosses, no pressure or even supervision at work.  It’s a complete lack of any structure forcing me to do anything. It would be easy just to goof all day on the internet (since the Crested Butte café has wi-fi now).   So I take part.  I help organize potlucks.  I volunteer to walk the pooches at the animal shelter.  I’m civic-minded, attend study sessions, e-mail letters about local issues to the editor.  Of course, I also go kayaking, trout fishing, and backpacking.