Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Idyll or Sweat Farm

Here I sit in the screen “house” about noon at our cabin after hauling some chips and cut brush. The sky is blue, the trees are green, the wind is blowing through the trees, and birds are chirping. Do I even want to move?

The weather forecast was for 30% chance of thunderstorms, but I am going by my own weather “advisory”.  If bad weather is predicted, there is often a bigger chance that the weather will be just fine.  This is one of those “just fine” days.

We are here on a too infrequent four-day weekend.  Even though it is the weekend of the Fourth of July, there are surprisingly few neighbors around.  The only thing we heard from neighbors who often shoot off fireworks was some late evening hooting.  Maybe they were watching a soccer match on TV.  Somebody was shooting yesterday in the woods, hopefully not on our land.  The only person who I think might have had access to that area is already gone.

“Don’t make it a sweat farm” was from Bruce Berggren, a DNR forester, who gave us a stewardship plan in the early Nineties.  I don’t remember if we had more than a dome tent, a picnic table, and a tarp then.  We weren’t doing more than cutting brush to expand our “living area” and to make room for planting trees.

Now we have a “yard” that is three times as big as our yard in Duluth and three loops of trails with some side paths.  But, because we found much to occupy ourselves in Duluth, two of the loops and the side paths have grown over.  On the other hand, the “yard” seems to be getting bigger.

Our first major “expansion” was to put cots in our dome tent.  Oh!  We had so much more room. We could put our packs and coolers under the cots.

Our first building was an 8x8 shed that I built probably within our second year here.  We moved our cots into it.  Oh! We had so much room.  We could even dress standing up. We could even put a propane heater in it and stay overnight in the winter.  With each stay, it seemed more and more space was taken up with tools.

A couple years later, I built a cabin with some assistance from others.  We decided that a nominal 12x16 should be sufficient for our needs until we built a house here.   When I first put in a cot, Oh! We had so much room.  Over the years, we have added more and more.  Before the second winter we had a wood stove.  We added a foldout couch and a card table.  We used an Ikea counter for our “kitchen” counter.  I had used it for my darkroom when we lived in Sweden.  I cut a hole in it for a sink which drains into a bucket on the floor.  We added a microwave and a mini-refrigerator.  I forgot to mention that we had electricity and telephone before I put the wallboard up.  We stuck a portable toilet in one corner.

At some point, I built an outhouse.  We can even use it in the winter in “comfort” with a small heater screwed onto a 20-lb propane tank.  Last year I installed a solar shed light.

The same year we moved to Duluth we had a well dug.  It’s only twenty feet deep, but the water was so nice to have.  Then came the drought years and we were back to hauling water.

We built an 8x12 sauna with the help of some friends.  A battery and a solar panel provide lighting.

Other buildings include a ramshackle woodshed built out of scrap lumber and a metal shed where we store our power equipment.  I wish I hadn’t been stingy on the cost.  I’m constantly bumping my head on the low ceiling.

A recent plus is that we have better internet service.  From 25Kbps (that’s right, K not M) with a landline to sometimes 10Mbps with cellular.  As this is off my cellphone contract with Consumer Cellular, my guess is that I’m paying about a third for phone and internet at the cabin than I was for the landline.

One big project I would like to do is get rid of all the “Toimi sand”.  Toimi is the neighboring township and the sand grains are from fist-size to boulders to climb onto.  This area is also called Kivi Country, kivi being Finnish for stone.  I would really like to get rid of many of them because those that stick up only an inch or two are lawnmower busters.  Even bigger ones make it hard to pull a cart over.

Two years ago I really hurt one shoulder using a ten-pound hammer on a 4x3x2 boulder to no avail other than chips flying all over.  I wonder if a small electric jackhammer would work.  Probably I couldn’t take the strain.

Well, I better wrap this up.  It looks like 30% chance of thunderstorms getting closer.  There are more clouds, some even dark, in the sky and the wind is getting stronger.  I hope I can cut the grass on at least one short path.  Oh well, if the rain comes, I still have many books to read and last week’s Reader Weekly.

Mel did get more than one path cut, edited this, and sent it.  The rain still hadn’t come.

This was also published in the 2014-07-10 issue of the Reader Weekly at