Saturday, February 8, 2014

3 Years Out: All Good Things Must End (But Not All Endings Are Forever)

Life doesn't always work out quite the way we plan. To the point, I never would have ended up in Waldo had my life leading up to Arkansas fit directly into the everyday, high-school-to-college-to-career mold. Looking back, I can't pinpoint one particular instance that made me jump ship from my immediate academic present to go off chasing some adventurous future. (That said, I could venture a couple of good guesses...) Maybe I had just enough of a rebellious streak to be destined to fall into this situation. Or maybe the stars happened to align just so. Regardless, molds are boring (and chainsaws are fun).

But getting back the 'things not working out quite as we plan' thought. Every beginning needs a fitting end, and much like I stumbled into the beginning of this adventure (if I recall correctly, I drove by a grove of black walnut trees and happened to think, "I'd love to build a log cabin"), I'm stumbling into the end.

It's been almost three years since I left the woods of Waldo and a lot has happened to me--I'm a different person. Not long after returning home, the hard drive with all of my pictures crashed before I ever posted a conclusion to my Arkansas adventure. There was a lot of annoyance and gnashing of teeth, and eventually I coped and moved on. But lo and behold, nearly three years and at least two different lives away, my dumb luck refuses to run out. In helping a friend photograph some plans for a design, I happened to pull out a SDHC card from an old camera, only to find the latter half of my Arkansas pictures still intact on the card.

Before I give way to these long-lost pictures, I'll certainly try to give my own thousand words (those who know me would expect no less). Arkansas touched me in a very real way. I learned from the experience. Not only did I learn a new set of skills, but I learned a great deal about myself and about what makes me tick. It took me a few years to put all the pieces together, but my work in Arkansas led to me being recruited to travel to New Zealand to work with the Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust on the Old Ghost Road project, building the Specimen Point cabin. New Zealand was a most amazing experience that directly helped influence the path I took towards a return to school. Both New Zealand and my time in Waldo (and always most importantly, my time at Camp) helped cement in me a desire to work with the land. It's a direct reason for my being where I am today (currently finishing school, getting a degree in Landscape Design from NC State). A little bit of each of these elements is still visible in everything I design.

Let me put it simply: if I could live a portion of my life over-and-over again on a continuous repeat--despite all of the freezing temperatures, icy-wet weather, tree-felling terror, and minor annoyances--I would be eating rice and beans in a makeshift camp outside of Waldo, Arkansas from here on and into eternity, with gasoline on my hands and sawdust in my beard. Amen.

How does one cut a rounded notch with a straight saw...?
...very slowly and meticulously.
10" TimberLoks go a long way to add stability, but they're a real pain when tightened with a ratchet.
I tried to keep as much of the roof structure made from cut logs as possible.

I'm particularly proud of my door handle.
A view from inside.
...and another...
Almost done...

Finishing up the sides.

All but done. A drastic haircut is one of the most vital remaining steps.

A final parting shot, moments before I left my home away from home. (Don't worry, after the shot I ran back and latched the front door.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Closing In On Complete

I'm almost done with my cabin. This past weekend, unable to wait for it to be completed, I went ahead and moved in once I had the roof done. It feels pretty amazing to sleep in a cabin that you've built.

With the roof attached, I'm working on covering the gaps between my roof and the tops of my walls and weatherproofing my walls. And a door. I need to build a door.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Coming along...

So I haven't been extremely consistent in posting. This is most likely due to the fact that as I make more and more progress, I want to spend less and less time away from the cabin and my work.

My dad came to visit this past weekend. His timing was immaculate and I finished with my walls while he was here and cut my doorway. I've got the wood for the floor and most of the wood for the roof. Hopefully, by the end of the week I'll be able to stay in it. Hopefully.
The doorway's a little short, but it serves its purpose. (If you need proof that my budget's tight, notice the duct tape on my boot. I've been holding it together with duct tape since the beginning of February. Classy to the last.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where I Stand...

I'm taking a brief break from work to post, but seeing as the library closes early today and I still have a lot of work to get done, there's really not much time for me to say much. This is a shame because I've recently though of a few remarkably profound, meaningful, charming, and witty things to share. Alas, I'll just have to keep talking to myself...

It occurs to me that I haven't posted my progress in about two weeks. This is a shame because quite a bit has happened in that time. Namely, my cabin is starting to look far more...cabin-ish.

I have six logs left to go.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Something about the bare logs
attracts a lot of butterflies.

It's fitting that I post this on the first official day of Spring. However, as it is wont, nature has once again ignored man-made schedules and Spring has actually been springing for several weeks now. But in this past week, the signs have been especially noticeable.

One of the earliest signs I saw were the bugs. Starting once temperatures were consistently above freezing, the bugs began appearing during the day. As the day lengthened and warmed, they hung out later and later. It's gotten to the point now where using my headlight at night anywhere outside of my tent attracts a flying crowd. The mosquitoes, gnats, flies, butterflies, bees, and beetles that buzz around my clearing as I work don't bother me unduly. I ignore them or just brush them off if they decide that I'd make a good landing pad. In the past week though, I have begun to see one flying insect I'm less than thrilled to see--red wasps. For those who are unaware of this wonder of the natural wolrd, imagine a burnt-orange/red wasp the size of your pinky finger with the temperament of a disgruntled postal worker. These flying beserkers consider your presence an affront to all they hold dear and will go looking for trouble. For this reason, whenever I see one buzzing around, I've taken to scampering away, ducking and weaving like I was dodging enemy fire.

The growing presence of fauna has been accompanied by action from the deciduous flora as well. Flowers have started popping up on vines that otherwise have shown no sign of life. Many of the smaller saplings appear to have doubled in size as there once bare branches have burst green with leaves.

It's also beginning to get hot--not just warm, but hot. A month ago, a 5-gallon water jug would last me almost a week. Last week, I emptied my first water jug and was about 3-gallons into my second before I filled up again on Sunday. I've also packed up my winter sleeping bag and switched to a summer bag.

 This past Sunday, I was reminded that this is just the beginning of spring, and that it's only going to get hotter from here out. We (my assorted cousins from El Dorado and I) were sitting around the table after lunch chatting. I don't remember how the conversation segued in this direction, but I remember the turn it took. My cousin Chris, looking at me and at my dark hair which has grown thick and is getting long, said, "You're going to need a summer haircut pretty soon." "No," I replied, "I work outside during the summer, so I'm used to the heat." Chris, who is mostly bald, pointed at his head and informed me, "Even I get a summer haircut. I've lived here for 40 some-odd years and I'm still not used to the heat." Not wanting to get a haircut or spend the money, I made some comment about having to tough it out. Chris's wife, with her voice thick with pity, chimed in, "Ohhh. When it's 90 degrees with 95% 8:30 in the morning, you're gonna want a haircut." This gave me pause, and as the conversation drifted on, I sat back and thought about this. 90 degrees with 95% humidity?? 8:30 in the morning?!?! There must be places in Hell cooler than a southern Arkansas afternoon. I'm gotta finish this cabin soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weathering the Weather

I'm definitely enjoying the warmer weather that comes as spring approaches in Southern Arkansas. It's fantastic to go for several weeks straight without losing the feeling in my feet. However, one downside to warmer weather is thunderstorms. Having been hit by two thunderstorms in the past week, I'm not embarrassed to admit: being in a tent in the middle of a thunderstorm is vaguely terrifying. Both have come at night (or very early morning), so my only course of action is to watch the slow strobe-light effect of the lightning and listen to the thunder and torrents of rain. But the whole time I constantly wonder what would happen if lightning were to strike a tree close by, or if there are any dead limbs above my tent that I failed to notice during my previous inspections. Thoughts like these can make it very hard to fall back asleep.

Working On the Walls

In the past week I've been working on raising my walls. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let the pixels do most of the talking. (Just click on the pictures to blow them up.)

Pulling a log up my ramps.
Surprisingly, one of the easiest parts of this entire venture is getting these massive logs up onto my frame. Just use my rope to pull them up the ramps.

The most time-consuming part is peeling them with the draw knife. It's not hard, but it's taking me around 2 hours to scrape the cambium off a single log.

My notches are starting to look
round instead of jagged.
The notching is relatively simple, but I realize that I'm lacking good pictures of this, so I'll leave an explanation of this until a later date. I will say (with a good bit a pride) that my notches are getting substantially prettier.

Things are starting to look a bit more cabin-ish.