This article is not about the 18th century per se, but rather about general woodsmanship.
I generally prefer doing my reenacting outdoors in the forests. Sweden is about 80% forested area so there is a lot of space to use… Much of this forested area is spruce so spruce comes up a lot in woodsmanship around here.
The most common way to use spruce is to make your bedding with it. It is generally very good for this but few have a good grasp on how much is needed, and how to apply it. Some just collect a few branches and put them on the ground. Lets look at a better way.
To gain as good an insulation from groundcold as a modern camping mattress it needs to be about half a meter high. This generally is three or four armfulls, depending on how you arrange it. It you just heap it, it will take more and compress faster. But if you stick the ends into the ground and have them tilting up in an angle you will get a springy function and it will be way more effective. This way they will not compress as fast and you will generally have a softer more effective bed, with the added bonus of no hard endtwigs poking you. Align them in rows until you have your allotted area covered.
Doing the dishes
For doing the dishes the spruce is an excellent choice. It will provide you with a dishbrush and detergent. Lets get all out educational with step by step pictures and all!
So, you just eaten and reached that happy reclining state in came where your belly is full and you are about to stretch out. Now is the time to do the dishes. Of course you have fried something greasy and its starting to stick to the skillet.
…and get back to camp. Now we put the sprucesoup on the fire. This will give us hot water for our dishing but there is an additional perk. Spruce contains quite a lot of saponine which acts as detergent. Even pine has a lot and birch, eventhough birch is mostly used as a detergent for cloth. Cooking the branches will release the saponine and give you detergent for your dishing up.
When the needles have lost colour and you can see a sort of oily film on the water, the dishwater is ready for you. This is the oils and saponines that have released into the water.
During the time the dishwater gets ready you can fashion a clever dishbrush. and get ready for the actual dishing. See all those little saponines swimming happily in the water, ready to do your bidding as detergents?
Now you have dishwater to use for most of the dishes that needs to be done after the meal. Everyone is happy and double happy that your demonstration of ‘how to do the dishes’ have resulted in all the dirty dishes being made.