Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stupid things done under the midnight sun

I was stupid, but also lucky (not an uncommon combination for me).
Because my old dog doesn’t go pee on his own anymore (he just stands around in front of the door, wondering why he’s out there), I need to accompany him – and that’s what I did yesterday morning when it was still dark. My headlamp carved out a feeble tunnel of light over the path that leads to our meadow, and while the oldie tagged along behind me, our younger dog bounded ahead with what seemed like inordinate excitement. But since he lives his entire life in a perpetual state of inordinate excitement, I paid no attention – stupid.
We had barely walked away from the cabin and past our porch when a loud roar exploded from the underbrush to my right. Bear, was my first thought, and I immediately turned heel, put the old dog on a leash and dragged him with me (he’s become prone to just stopping in his tracks and musing “now what was that?”, going through thirteen and a half years of memories at his leisure while danger and/or my frustration escalates), and called back the younger dog. Within a minute we were back inside where I replayed the roar and wondered why that had been the only sound – strange for a bear. No branches cracking, no huffing. Nothing.
I grabbed the battery-powered floodlight and shone it at the bushes, but the light just reflected maddeningly on all the branches without revealing what was hidden behind them. Should I go out again and check? But if I find a sudden tragic end out there, the dogs will face a slow, even more tragic one inside the cabin. Caution prevailed, dawn broke and I could finally make out an animal silhouette in between the willows just off the path: a moose. No, two silhouettes: a cow (cow on this blog is always shorthand for female moose) and a calf.
Of course, a moose! Stupid, stupid. It’s been my worry to bump into one on these piddle expeditions in the darkness, and now I actually did – and in hindsight recognized that very scary roar as that of a moose warning off an attacker. I’ve heard it once when a bear tried to kill a small calf, and another time when a cow went through my laundry line, found herself straddled by a pair of jeans and successfully intimidated the rest of the laundry with her roar into staying put.
I’m sure the cow yesterday morning was miffed that after years of always being allowed the right of way here I suddenly had the temerity to walk right up to her – she and her calf must have been just metres off the path. Luckily she didn’t feel the need to drive home her feelings with her hooves.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Racing against time

If you guessed that this blog has been quiet because we’ve been trying desperately to get most of our work on the cabin done before snow – you’re right! And if you guessed that we might have had some problems with our power supply – you’re also right. But I’ll let you know about our misadventures with off-grid electricity another time.

Here’s the latest from the snowy wilderness cabin remodelling front. We broke through the wall of our cabin into the addition in three places (two of the new openings combined into a large doorway into the new kitchen).

Because our log home is post-and-beam (also called pièce en pièce), uprights posts carry the structural building load while horizontal filler logs largely serve as just that: fillers. They do add stability to the posts, but it’s easy to cut new doorways into such a building. Of course we’re saving all the sections we’ve cut out (potential future use is for a winter garden or mud shack/sheltered entrance).
So you can fully appreciate how our cabin is morphing from cluttered impromptu bush shack to wilderness luxury abode, this is was our kitchen looked like for almost ten years:

And – tadaaa – this is what we’ve got now:

My partner, who usually ends up doing all the cooking while I do the eating, felt inspired to bake bagels for the first time in ten years – for that alone it was worth the work!

We used to have a wood cookstove on the stone floor but have decommissioned it for the time being because we don’t have a large enough wood stove to heat our now rather large cabin with (26’x24’, plus half an upper storey). For now, we’ll be using two wood stoves and we took the legs off this one and set it right on the stone floor to combat the problem of cold feet in the wintertime – a common thing in many cabins. Because heat rises and the firebox of most stoves is situated somewhere around knee level, it means that without a fan you’re always toasty from the knees up while your toes are fighting frostbite. This can be easily fixed without a fan by removing the stove legs and having the stove sit on a heatproof surface.

The bedroom is also more or less done, but the to-do list remains crowded: a bench and table, closet, bathroom and library are still on the agenda. By now our work gets increasingly hampered by rain and snow (we still have to plane and sand the boards we milled, not to mention cut them to size).
Boating season is pretty much over.

Over the next few days, we’ll carry our kayaks and canoe up to our shed where they can spend the winter protected from snow and moose (who’ve been known to inadvertently breaking the odd boat by stepping on it in the winter).
Some poplars are still clinging stubbornly to their leaves, but about 90% of the deciduous trees and shrubs are already bare and flocks of songbirds, loons, swans and geese have already come through on their way south.
I love this time of year when the land empties, tilting noticeably away from the sun and letting our summer light and animals spill back down south.