Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cabin Journal - first two days

     May 6

     The ice is off Deadman.  That's about it.  Ice on all the rest, shore to shore.  Snow along the roadsides on the shaded embankments.  I don't remember snow this late.  On the Deadman side of the cabin and shed there are still a foot deep piles where it'd slid off the steel roofs.  No leaves, no buds.  Looks late March.  On the upside there's no mosquitos or wood ticks.  By the time it's Spring up here the calendar will say Summer.  'Sposed to rain on Wednesday and that may do the trick.  It might be possible to float a boat come Saturday but it'd be wise to wear a life jacket.  As to the fishing ... good luck.  
     On another upside, the boys from down south ain't coming for three weeks and that's enough time for the post-spawn to be in the past.  Who knows?  Maybe this will be a year to remember for more than the latest ice-out since the glaciers receded.
     A walk of the land tells me there's a big buck occasionally wandering our land.  Crap the size of a caribou's.  Or maybe a six hundred pound bunny.  His would be a rack to find.  Over the years I've looked for antlers with no luck.  Maybe I don't have the eye for it.  I mean they're shaped and colored like branches.  And the forest floor is nothing but branches.  About the time I get my concentration up and into 'seeing the rack', I walk square into an oak.  Then I can't see squat till I straighten out my glasses.  From then on I'm solidly into 'seeing the tree' mode and couldn't find a buck's rack unless I sat on it.
     Nearly seventy above when I drove up in the late afternoon but not so in the cabin.  So cold in there I was expecting to find frost on the nail heads.  Nothing else to do but build a fire.  'Spose I could have toughed it out but there's nearly three cords of dry wood neatly stacked under the spreading shed eaves.  It'll take years to get to it all and by then there'll be more, split, stacked, and dry.  Besides, fire is fun and exciting.
     Tomorrow the plan is to get started on the necessary cleanup.  Put off much longer and the dead flies will be ankle deep.  Also lots of windows that needed a serious washing.  The cabin's not all that big but there are thirty-five window panes, not including the storms on the main rooms.  That's a lot of glass to polish inside and out.  Much easier to write about it.
     If there's time in the afternoon I'll peel some of the Juneberry poles I've collected as they've died.  Cut them to shortened lengths and - what else? - make little trees out of them.  It's a sickness.

May 7

     Whenever I woke up in the night I heard an owl or two working the woods outside.  A little research in the morning told me it was a barred owl, even though I was rooting for a great horned owl.  Turns out that owls also eat bats.  We've got maybe a half dozen bats living under our steel roof.  If the owls ate a few I wouldn't complain.
     I suppose I could learn to live with the infernal scritching of the bats, small brown bats by the way,  as they work their way out to feed in the evening but there's always the fear that their droppings could eventually cause a problem.  Like maybe turn us into vampires.  On the other hand bats eat mosquitos and with all the water around this Spring, there'll be no shortage of them.  In a perfect world the owls would eat the bats, then take over the mosquito job.
     As to the owls, I also read they could be drawn close by simply echoing their whoo - who - who - whooo call.  Or maybe wearing a steel lined mouse hat.
     Today was a work day.  You lock it up in the Fall.  Buttoned up tight as possible but somehow the dust settles down, the flies die, and the windows get dirtier.  So you go at it just like you would with a car, start at the top and clean your way down.  Starting with a couple of makeshift beds up in the addition that had to be stripped and given an old fashioned shaking out.
     My thoughts while doing this run to the days when part of spring cleaning was pulling out the wool rugs and going at them with a carpet beater.  I'm old enough to remember such things but not old enough to have done it.  As to the aging process, I'm no longer on the cutting edge of life but have become a go between who ties generations together.  From the one I didn't live but heard stories of to the one which never knew life prior to the internet.
     A lot of life at the cabin is old fashioned, a throwback to an age that is gone.  The water gets hand pumped, the outhouse is my friend, the wood stove our heat.  Entertainment is radio, reading, writing, maybe some lure tying and time on the water is self-propelled.  Call it being stuck in the '30s without the Depression.  It's a good life.  Maybe not as clean or exciting as the 21st Century and maybe it's only a few days at a time, but I'm happy when up there.
     Windows get washed inside and out.  Furniture moved, corners and underneaths cleaned. Everything gets put back and the center vacuumed.  It's not all that much fun till you get into the swing of the work.  Work is work be it paddling a canoe or washing the dishes.  Get it done, get it done right. Words I heard growing up.
     Truth is I'm no perfectionist.  The cabin is clean but not sterile.  It helps that I'm lazy in a preemptive sense.  Shoes come off in the entry.  Firewood gets checked for vermin before it's brought in.  No sense  dragging in any more dirt than necessary.  Maybe if I lived here, the cabin would get a top to bottom scrubbing now and then.  And if I lived there, I'd sure as hell get it dirtier than I do now and it'd need a top to bottom job now and then.
     Downstairs to the sole, real bedroom.  Same routine.  However, there I hit the first of the original glide-by windows that need to be pulled apart to be fully cleaned.  A pain in the ass for sure but guilt drives me on.  Thank you Sister Eleanor Marie.
     Lunch was late 'cause there was no way in hell I was taking a break till the bedroom was done.
     By two I was outside peeling poles and ripping oak for 'little tree' stock with a smile on my face and an eye on my thighs as the draw knife drew near.  A trip to the clinic would put a damper on my fine time and in serious trouble with my loved ones.  Nothing like getting ten stitches and no sympathy.  I tend to be real careful with hand held, sharpened steel.
     As to making artsy pine trees out of juneberry, something seems innately wrong.  I'd say it's kind of a mock duck thing but don't know what mock duck is.  And I have my doubts whether I can successfully work a round object on a band saw.  Circle and square problem.  I tend to be a right angle kind of guy and the trunk I cut down - dead of course - has more than its share if irregularity.  It sure looked straight enough till I took to peeling it.  Worse comes to worst, juneberry makes fine kindling.
     'Bout the time I got the oak slabs ripped to two by twos I'd run out of gas.  Seems that at age sixty-six my tank ain't as big as it once was.  Time to head inside and throw together dinner.  Then an evening of NPR and reading.  Gierach goes nicely up here.  Laid back, humor and an occasional insight.

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