Skunk 2: Road Trip

Max’s skunk came back and got caught in the Havahart trap again so this time he decided to take a chance on relocating it.

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“Carving a home in the north woods” chapter 6

John was standing on Union Street in Bangor waiting for a bus ride back to New Jersey.  It was only seven days ago he got off the bus with the intention of looking at land parcels in northern Maine.  He was thinking of all that had transpired in the last week and the events still had his head spinning.  He had put down a sizable deposit on land, camped out, caught some fish, and established a friendship with a Maine Guide.  It all seemed to happen so fast that he really had no time to process everything until now.  Had he moved to quickly?  Could he really make it up here through a cold winter? Would he be able to make money?  These were the questions John was asking himself while the line of people waiting for the bus ride grew bigger, indicating that it must be close to departure.  He was still unsure what he was going to tell his family, and it was beginning to concern him.  He had thought of the surveying job as a smoke screen but that was a complete lie.  He felt obligated to get a job in agriculture  to justify his four years at the university, but that meant moving somewhere he didn’t want to live.  He knew people who had careers with the Department of Agriculture, most of their work was completed from behind a desk.  There were some exceptions where people did extensive field work in other countries, and traveled, but that was a small percentage.  Some of his professors worked for the USGS before they settled for  a career of education.  They would often talk about spending months in remote areas, studying stream flow, and observing related habitat, which seemed interesting.  However, they also spoke of endless bureaucracy and legislature that took years to negotiate, and the frustration of dealing with politics from state and government officials.  Even worse, the possibly of seeing months of work and research end up in a filing cabinet, never to be seen again, because it conflicted with some politicians bargaining with a major oil company.   Some of the deep rooted propaganda in supposed “green projects” that translated into more government spending with private industry was more than John could get his head around.   John did not want to spend his life shuffling documents for the sake of a steady salary and pension, providing he could stick it out.

John had left all his new possessions at Les’s house with the exception of his new wool shirt and boots.  The coffee pot, fishing equipment and cast iron fry pan were put in a steel foot locker he found in the barn while helping Les fix the old wavy glass windows.  He packed the wool shirt on top of the pile in his duffel bag,  intentionally left half unzipped so he could see it to  be reminded of the north woods.  The shirt was  emitting a slight wood smoke smell from the campfire he found very comforting.

The twelve hour bus ride back to New Jersey was reasonably uneventful with the exception of a safety stop by the Highway Patrol in New Hampshire. The state routinely stops commercial buses and trucks to check brakes and safety equipment. There were no issues with the bus, and all of the paperwork was in order.  There was a decommissioned tractor-trailer, bound for Canada,  that had been  “red flagged”  because it was over-loaded and without correct paperwork for leaving the country.  John spoke briefly with the operator at the rest area, who was finishing his last day of work before going into the hospital for cancer treatment.  The conversation left him feeling lucky to be healthy.  He genuinely felt sad for the truck driver who had worked his entire life supporting a family, and the only thing he had to look forward to, in this stage of his life, was possibly beating cancer.  The two men shook hands and John returned to the bus feeling a connection with this man.  Maybe it was just fate.  Seeing another person looking back at their life, talking about things they wished they had done, was something he needed to hear.  In any case, the bus was back on the highway traveling south on interstate ninety five.

The tall and peaked trees of northern Maine behind him, he now saw the  architecture of a city skyline at sunset.  The sound of vehicles whizzing by at high speed,  overhead steel bridges looming in the distance, combined with the clamor of the bus and it’s passengers was in striking contrast to the sound of the Aroostook River and the northwest winds that had blown campfire smoke into his wool shirt.  He had decided to tell his parents the truth about his intentions of moving up north, living off grid, and surviving off what the land had to offer.  He knew it was going to be difficult, but he had to be honest. There was no point in starting a story he couldn’t finish later.  The learning curve is huge when you live self sufficiently.   Everything you do from the time you wake up until your head hits the pillow must be deliberate. The tasks and chores are enormous for one person to accomplish on a daily basis.  Gathering enough wood in itself is daunting, never mind collecting and containing water, providing food and trying to maintain some modicum of hygiene. The wet heavy snow was going to pile up on the roof, and he didn’t even have a roof yet, but somehow he would have to figure it  out.

Eventually the bus came to a stop three blocks from his parent’s house.  He got off with his bag and zipped it closed.  Walking down the street, he was thinking about four years earlier when he left for the university.  The time had gone by fast, but he felt like he accomplished more in the last week than all his time studying fertilizers and hybrid seeds.  It was early evening and both his mother and father were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner.  John walked in and his mother ran over for a big hug.  “Oh you are home already, and you need a shave.  “His father closed the door to the dish washer and gave him a firm handshake.  “What smells like a fire?” he asked.  “That must be me dad, I’ve been camping.  Caught some nice small mouth bass up in Maine.”  “So how was your trip?”  John sat his bag down and went to the cupboard for a glass.  “I can’t begin to tell you how much I love it up there.”  “What else did you do, any hiking or sight seeing?”  The water from the faucet smelled like a swimming pool compared to the spring water he’d been drinking the previous week.   “I did some fishing and spent a few days working for a guy fixing up his barn.” “You worked up there?” his mother asked. “Yeah, actually I met a Maine Guide and stayed with him for a few days.  He paid me to help him with some projects and I stayed with him.”  “Really?” his mother asked.  “Yup, I can’t even begin to tell you how nice people are up there.”  “Well I’m glad you had a good time.” “Oh for sure, actually…  I’m heading back up there next week.”  “For what?”  his father asked.  “I am in the process of buying land.  I want to build a cabin and live there.”  “What do you mean live there? In the woods?”  “Well no…I mean yeah… I guess… in a cabin though.”   “That’s pretty much living in the woods John.” his mother said.  “Your out of college for a week, and now you think your Daniel Boone?” his father asked.  “No more like Jim Bridger.”  “Who is Jim Bridger?” his mother asked. “It doesn’t matter, I know who I am and that’s what I want to do.”  “I think we should start over with a drink.” his father said as he walked out of the kitchen.  “I didn’t expect it to go that smoothly.” John said to his mother.  “Oh he just worries about you and Steve.”  “I think Steve will be just fine.”  His mother pulled the coffee maker toward the front of the counter and started getting it ready for the morning. “You know I half expected you to do this after high school.”  “Do what?” John asked. “Go away and carve yourself a home in the wilderness. You always read books about mountain men and trappers. You were obsessed with the fur trade when you were ten years old.  You even talked about moving to Alaska.”  “I do have a plan, its not like I’m just giving up on the world and becoming a recluse.”  “John you have always been focused on the wilderness.  When the other kids on the street wanted new bicycles you were building forts and looking for animals down by the rail road tracks.  Both your father and I know you and your brother are two different people.  I worry more about Steve because he takes chances.”  “You mean you don’t think I’m crazy?” “No, actually you have never given me or your father a nights worry.  You were in college four years and not a single problem.”  “Wow, I expected you both to talk me out of it.”  His mother slid the coffee pot to the back of the counter. “Would it have changed your mind if we disagreed with you?” John thought for a second before he responded. “I would always respect your opinions and concern, but this feels right to me.  I just have to give this a try, and if I didn’t, it would nag at me forever.”  John’s father returned to the kitchen with a double scotch.  “Let’s go out to the back porch and sit down for a bit.”

The backyard at John’s parents house was secluded with trees and shrubbery. John spent many afternoons here as a kid pretending he was in Alaska panning for gold. There was also a trail down to the train trestle where he would catch bass and other panfish.  If you followed the path far enough it led to the golf course where John’s father spent most of his spare time.  You used to be a pretty good bowler in college didn’t you?” John asked.  “I remember the parties and people talking about it.”   His father had multiple trophies in his den from college bowling tournaments.  “When I graduated college two of my friends and I were going to open a chain of bowling allies in Puerto Rico.” “Seriously?”  “Yes, we had the financial backing and sponsorship from a major manufacturer.”  “I have never heard about this.”   “That’s because it was a sore subject for many years.”  “How so?”  His father took a sip of his favorite scotch. “Well, I met your mother in college and wanted to marry her.  She was all for getting married and moving to Puerto Rico, but your grandfather forbade it. He said it was too dangerous and risky.  If his daughter was getting married it was going to be to a man who could provide her with a secure lifestyle.”  John had never heard anything about this and was a bit shocked.  “I really had no idea you ever wanted to do that.”  “Oh yes.  I wanted it very much but I also wanted to marry your mother.  My friends went on to open a franchise and became professional bowlers, both of them.”  “Wow, I really never knew.”  John said.  “Not many people do now.  I have done well in business with the company, but I never had the passion for it like I did for bowling.”  “Why don’t you buy a bowling ally now and retire into that?”  “That ship has sailed John. Those windows of opportunity don’t stay open very long.”  “So your not going to try and talk me out of it?”  “No,  as a matter a fact I want to here all about this fool hardy plan of yours; going off to be Daniel Boone!”  “Its Jim Bridger dad.”

John was beside himself after hearing the story about his father wanting to move to Puerto Rico and become a professional bowler.  It also sparked something in him that he never felt before concerning his father.  It was the first time he had ever talked about anything passionate or being adventurous. The only thing he ever saw his father do was work and play golf.  He never seemed happy about work, and his name wasn’t on any plaque at the country club.  Not to say he was a bad golfer, but occasionally his friends put a handicap license plate on his golf cart.  It seemed he went there to drink and avoid projects around the house.  He entertained business clients there so it was a write off if nothing else.

The next morning John was up before daylight  drinking coffee at the kitchen table.  He was reading the magazine he purchased out west on his way home from college.  It was the “living off grid” article he saw on the cover that had inspired his trip to Maine, but hadn’t yet had time to actually read it.  Now as he was thumbing through the pages, seeing pictures of tomato plants in styrofoam cups and solar batteries running laptop computers, he started thinking about how foolish he would look showing up to Northfield with a truckload of plastic.  It was a concern for many of John’s university professors that there was a growing trend for solar power.  Although not as environmentally harmful as removing mountain tops and mining coal,  the manufacturing of solar cells produces  dangerous waste  including mercury and chromium.  These potentially end up in landfills, eventually infecting ground water, especially where these systems are manufactured in countries with very little, or zero EPA standards.  Every year the electronics industry alone generates millions of tons of toxic waste. The propaganda for installation and disposal of solar systems is often deceiving, the components and compounds used are petroleum based, but marketed as clean and green.  It seemed like another example of marketing and profits getting ahead of responsible manufacturing and distribution. The styrofoam cup is horrifying to anyone who does five minutes of research on materials that are detrimental to the environment, so how could these pictures be associated with a lifestyle, non-dependent of electricity, and free of fossil fuels?

The farm back in Northfield, complete with a blacksmith shop, along with a hand dug well seemed like a very small carbon footprint by comparison.  The people that ran that farm were already self sufficient. The only thing they really needed was wood and steel.  The steel to cut the wood and the wood to manipulate the steel in the blacksmith shop was only walking distance from the barn.  Very little was brought in from outside except a few staples like flour and sugar.  The animals were raised and plowed the fields, and the fields were cut to feed the animals.  Trees were cut for firewood and sawn into boards while the firewood forged the steel to make nails. There was no marketing involved, it was simply a lifestyle…. And when compared to the simple “living off grid” article  on the table in front of him,  John was embarrassed for buying it and felt he had a duty to walk it to the nearest redemption center to dispose of it properly…..

John spent the next few days visiting childhood friends and family that still lived close by.   Most of his uncles and aunt’s had retired and moved to Florida. The old bakery was still operated by the same family that owned it for thirty plus years.  They made the best bread and pie crusts around.  It was a simple operation, and they were famous for their blueberry pie and muffins.  Most people don’t think of blueberries when you mention New Jersey, but there are  thousands of  acres yielding, arguably, the best blueberries in the country.  He found a couple of used pickup trucks for sale in the local paper and looked at both of them.  The first one was a two wheel drive that had high mileage and low maintenance records.  The other was a Ford half ton, four wheel drive with a standard transmission and square headlights that John liked.  It was root-beer brown color with little or no rust.  He noticed the vehicles in Maine showed rust after the age of ten years for some reason.  The price on the windshield was twenty five hundred,  but the older gentleman who owned it said he would accept two thousand after learning John was moving to northern Maine to start a life.   John gave him a five hundred dollar deposit to hold the truck, and would return the next day with the remaining fifteen hundred, taking the truck along with a tool box for the back.

It seemed like things were going too easily.  His parents were actually supporting his decision to move north, and he found a pickup in good shape that was four wheel drive.  His thoughts went back to the cabin he was going to build.  He figured the library may have some trade books with pictures and ideas.  He found a couple of popular mechanics magazines that featured modern contemporary vacation homes that had no appeal to him.  There was a whole book on ways to build tree houses and live in them which he found amusing.  There was also a pile of Sports Afield magazines, the one on top had an elk hunt featured on the cover.  The story inside showed hunters sitting in camp with horses and wooden boxes that contained there camping and cooking equipment.  He also noticed a white canvas wall tent with a wood stove……. This was a new concept…… Could he get by with a tent all winter?  It seemed ridiculous, but there it was right in front of him.  Men living in white canvas tents… in Montana… in November!  He remembered the stories of gold prospectors living in Alaska and they had tents like that with wood stoves.  So why couldn’t he do that instead of trying to build a cabin, at least for the first winter?  In the back of the magazine was an ad for the same tent and he wrote down the phone number.  He knew of an old military surplus store out by the Parkway.  They carried  all kinds of camping and cooking equipment.  They had huge tents,  maybe they had  a stove to heat it with.

The next day after paying the balance on his new truck, and almost two hours of dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles, he drove to the surplus store to look for a stove.  They, in fact, had three of them that would burn either wood or coal.  They came with a tripod and connection hose that accepted an upside down jerrycan so you could burn diesel fuel.  This surprised John,  he felt it was unsafe, but took it anyway. He figured, worst case scenario, he could use diesel fuel, but only in an emergency.

He contacted the tent company in Montana and ordered a twelve foot by twelve foot wall tent with three foot sides.  The company also offered a pole kit with the tent but said he could cut wooden poles on-sight if that was possible.  John remembered Les telling him about the black spruce trees the  guides used for poling their canoes and he figured he would harvest some when he got back to Maine to save the extra money. The Tent was expensive, but he thought even if he couldn’t make it work to live in for a year, it would still last him a lifetime, and he would never need another tent.

When he got back to his parents house there was no one home.  He made a quick dinner from leftovers, and read through some of the old magazines he brought home from the library.  He especially liked the elk hunting story that inspired him to by his tent.  There was an old wooden box out in the garage that belonged to his grandfather that would make a good addition to his camp. It would hold the tent and most of his camping equipment.  He still needed a few things like a lantern and a camp stove.  He enjoyed cooking over a fire, but didn’t think he would always have the time, and the stove would make a quick meal.  He decided on a stove that ran on white gas instead of bottled gas because it was easier to find in stores, seemed to be less expensive, and  he wouldn’t have empty gas canisters piling up around camp.

The tent arrived three days later just as expected.  John had most of his belongings loaded in the truck with a makeshift rain cover fabricated from old plywood.  He cleaned out his old bedroom taking only a few books and clothing including a wool sweater.  The rest was donated to the church where, as a kid, he helped out with thrift sales on weekends.  His  parents took him out for dinner the night before he left, and his father told everyone in the restaurant his son was going off to live a life in the wilderness like Daniel Boone.  It didn’t matter to John that his father had never heard of Jim Bridger, as long as he was happy.

“Carving a home in the north woods” chapter 5

When land was surveyed in the early days of Maine, in order to make certain parcels of land “legal” for settlement, areas were divided into “townships” and plans were developed for full-fledged towns.  Certain groups of speculators, or would-be settlers, would often buy the township and “plant it” with settlers and establish plans with a structure for church and education.  When the number of settlers reached a certain population, limited self-government was granted and the status of that township was declared a “plantation.”  When the plantation grew to it’s expected population it was granted civil rights and became chartered by the state as a municipality with elected officials.

In the case of Northfeild Plantation, where both Les and Ken Orman grew up as boys, working long hours on their grandfathers potato farm, it never reached enough of a population to be established as a town.  There are a few other plantations that still exist throughout the great north woods, but Northfield  was home to many legendary moose hunts and some record black bear were harvested over the last few decades.   It  had three apple orchards spread out over ten square miles and four percent of it was water.  Only twenty houses were ever built, and the population at the last census was thirty seven people.  This made for a practically non-existent economy,  but the lack of human presence made for some of the best hunting and fishing in the state.

Ken had bigger dreams than the plantation could offer.  He completed his Bachelor’s degree in business, leading to a career in  real estate and  investments.  He  had some very good years in business yielding great returns on his investments, mostly in real estate, typically sub-developments. Unfortunately, the previous business year hadn’t been as generous to his portfolio.  He suffered such a financial  loss he had no choice but to sell his half of the family farm.  Les had managed to convince the Nature Conservancy to buy his brother’s share of the land to be put it into wildlife conservation.  Though it allowed Ken  to keep his house, along with other investments that were at an all time low, he lost his stake in the farm that he grew up on, working long summers and harvesting whitetail deer and upland game.  It was a decision  he knew he would regret.  Unfortunately,  after a very expensive divorce five years earlier that emptied his savings account,  and put an end to his winter vacations on the west coast of Florida (His now ex-wife owns the bungalow they bought after a real estate boom twenty years ago) he really had no choice. The irony for Ken was that his portion of the farm was now in the hands of the nature conservancy, never to be developed into housing lots.  He had made all his money buying land and developing it with investment groups over the last four decades of his life, and now the land he grew up on was protected… from him.

Les, on the other hand, was never aggressive about making money.  He lived a simple life as a potato farmer after graduating high school.  He spent much of his time hunting and fishing.  He had harvested several record bucks over the years and was a local legend by the time he was thirty years old.  His recognition got him into working for a guide service in the slow season, and eventually he started his own guiding business.  In the years that followed, he guided some very influential clients including some outdoor writers who got him international recognition through magazine articles.  There were offers to appear on several television shows, but he declined all of them.  Les was always happy to teach someone how to fly fish, track a white tail deer, or call in a bull moose, but he only wanted to work with one or two people at a time.  He never liked the idea of a camera focused only on him.  He felt that most of what was he saw on television was contrived and wasn’t always done in good style, or for that matter, within the true ethics of hunting.  It seemed to him, the marketing and technology behind hunting was slowly eroding the sport that he loved so much.  All the hunting magazines featured trophy sized animals on the front cover.  Every story mentioned the latest firearm and specific specialty cartridge that was used, right down to the manufacturer of the bullet.  It seemed  there was hardly any reverence for the game harvested, except that it was going into a record book somewhere, to the hunters credit.  The way Les felt about hunting was that pursuing any game animal was an opportunity to reconnect with the land and natural world.  Growing up on a farm he saw animals raised for consumption, and always felt the wild animals he harvested had a much better quality of life compared to animals raised within the confines of a pen.  When a person harvests an animal in the wild for the sake of consuming it, they have taken something from the land.  That person then has a duty to preserve and protect the habitat for future generations.  Similarly,  a rancher raising cattle has to ensure his land is suitable for raising future herds.  When clients wanted pictures taken of themselves, posing with a bull moose or a giant brook trout, it sometimes seemed less about the game and more about the individual being photographed.  There were some exceptions, but he saw a growing trend in “sportsman notoriety” and less focus on learning the ways of the woods and streams.  However, as a professional guide it is his duty to see his client gets the experience they came for, complete with documentation.

The next morning Les had coffee boiling by six o’clock and John could hear bacon sizzling in the same pan used for trout and fiddleheads the night before. “I need to leave by seven o”clock but don’t feel you have to run off, unless you are going fishing again, and in that case, you have overslept,”  Les said with the usual smile.   “Actually I have to drive back to Bangor and either return the car, or extend my rental.”  “You plan on buying a truck?” Les asked.  “I’m not sure yet,  been thinking about a few options, don’t know what I should do.”  Les slid the bacon out of the pan onto a brown paper bag he flattened on the counter. “Well if you plan on living up in these parts, you most likely want a pickup.”   “I guess the more I think about it,  I will need a truck for lumber and firewood.” Les cracked two eggs on the edge of the pan and they popped in the bacon grease.  He had toast and some hand-churned butter on the table ready for a hungry guest.  The two ate breakfast and drank coffee talking about local lumber yards and saw mills.  Les had a friend who ran a saw-mill and he thought John could save quite a bit of money using rough-cut lumber.

“Its a three hour ride to the town where the funeral service is, so I’m staying the night and won’t be back until late tomorrow afternoon,  you are more than welcome to stay here tonight if you want.”  John felt like he was taking advantage of Les, having just met him the day before.  “Oh I can stay in Bangor tonight, I need a shower anyway.”  The shower here works fine, and you can use my phone to call the car rental company.”  The idea of not wasting a day in Bangor was appealing to John.   He should spend as much time as possible getting to know the local area.  “Okay, but let me at least do something  for you like mow the lawn.  “Ken tells me you might be looking for some work up here?”  “Well I have to figure something out.   I am spending money faster than I would like to, and I have nothing coming in.”  “If you are interested I have a list of projects around here I would be happy to have taken care of,   I just don’t have the time.”   “What kind of projects?”  John asked. “Paint the barn, stack the firewood, fix a couple windows that rattle at night, stuff like that.  I could keep you busy all summer.”  John thought it was a stroke of luck to have met Les and now he would have a chance to be around him over the summer. “I would be happy to work around here doing whatever I could.  I have done a little house painting but not much carpentry.”  Well you can figure it will be good practice towards building your camp.”  Les said.  “Okay then, where is the woodpile?  I can start there.”

John spent the day stacking wood and trimming the grass around the barn that needed a good coat of paint.  He arranged to have the car until the weekend giving  him time to consider shopping for a vehicle.  He was also thinking about how he was going to explain this whole thing to his family.  As far as anyone from New Jersey knew, he was on a fishing trip to northern Maine and coming back to find a job that best suited his last four years of  university education.  They had no idea he was in the process of buying land,  wanting to hand build a cabin where he could be free from the modern conveniences everyone else felt they needed to survive in the modern world.  John knew it was possible, but also knew he had absolutely no skills in the woods. He could barely catch enough fish to survive a weekend, never mind hunting and foraging food.  The books he read as a boy romanticized the life of woodsman and trappers, but it left out the hardship, suffering and emptiness they lived with every day.  When you are alone in the wilderness it makes a person feel small, you sense things differently than when in the confines of a house or a city.  Things around you smell, taste, feel and sound different.  You hear the slightest movements in the forest, and the smallest bird catches your eye as it hops from tree to tree.  You notice a difference in the waters surface indicating a beaver swimming or a fish chasing an insect.  The smell of a fire is comforting and food tastes better.  These are all things you would never experience driving in a car or flying in an airplane.  When you eat food at a restaurant there are too many distractions from people moving and music playing.  When you cook a fish over a fire beside a stream you are connected to the world it came from and you are part of it.  When you return bones and skeleton to the place it came from it starts another cycle of life in that area. The further we separate ourselves from the world our sustenance comes from, the less we value and appreciate it.  The concept of “living off the land” seems parasitic when observing cultures of people who “live with the land,”  taking only what they need, and putting back an equal amount, leaving habitat undisturbed and letting nature take it’s course.  The wilderness has its own system of checks and balance and will always take care of itself.  Whenever there is a road built, or a housing track goes up, simultaneously there is loss of habitat and it decreases the lands “carrying capacity” for wildlife.  When the carrying capacity is depleted, there  can be no wildlife except the rodents and parasites that can exist in that environment.  There is a sense of irony when a luxury home home is built  lake front to enjoy the  pristine natural environment…. complete with a chemically fertilized lawn and a boat house carved into the already eroding shoreline.  It will reduce habitat by four times it’s own footprint,  eventually eliminating the surrounding wildlife, decreasing the appeal to the already molested shoreline, and coincidentally providing a nesting area for rats.  There is a reason the term “rat race” is used describing everyday life.   John wanted no part of it.  Clearly he had a-lot to learn about coping with the cold winter months and feeding himself, but he knew it was possible, and felt the sacrifices would be worth while.

When Les returned home he was happy with John’s progress.  The only fault he pointed out was that John didn’t stack the ends  correctly on the wood pile.  He told John that you have to cross stack the ends to give support, otherwise the pile will fall over within a week.  John re-stacked the pile and realized exactly what Les was explaining.   He laughed thinking about the fact he had a college degree and didn’t even know how to stack wood!   He also liked that Les had explained it to him rather than become frustrated with his lack of experience.

After the wood pile was stacked correctly, John went into the kitchen and Les had already put out the nights dinner consisting of deer meat, potatoes and more of those delicious fiddleheads.   John was starving as usual and finished his plate quickly.  “You definitely like to eat.”  Les said.  “yeah, and you make  really good meals.”  “Well you get plenty of practice being a guide and living alone.”  John wanted to know what happened to Les’s wife, but felt uncomfortable asking about it.  He also wondered why Les didn’t have any children.  “Do you have any kids to take over the guide business?” John asked. “Nope, never had children.  My wife always wanted them, but I was in a farming accident when I was a kid.” John saw images of metal parts spinning at high speeds and had to adjust his sitting position.  Maybe that was something he doesn’t have to know about either…

“I have been thinking about finding a helper that was willing to learn the ropes and maybe take on some of the work I am getting to old for.  The problem is finding someone who wants to do the work and gain the experience.  Most people who need a job have to earn more money than guiding offers.”  John was quick to respond.  “I would be willing to help you, if you thought I would be of any help at all.”  “Oh I have been thinking about it for the last couple of days.  I figure if you want to do some stuff around the house, and maybe help out on a canoe trip or two, and see if you like it, we could go from there.”  “I would be grateful for any chance to learn about living up here and actually getting hands on experience with someone like yourself.”  Les got up and took two glasses down from the cupboard which suggested a glass of his coveted cider was next.  “I do like your attitude and work ethic John.  Most people your age want nothing to do with learning the mechanics it takes to make this life possible.”  “I really have no experience with any of it, but I find it satisfying in a way that is hard to describe.”  ” Les passed him a cold glass of cider and sat back down.  “I have to tell you though, its backbreaking work and long hours.  Those loads get heavier every year and the nights get longer.  I still love guiding but I miss the clients that used to enjoy it as much as I do.”  “Do you still get satisfaction from teaching these things?”  “Yes, I suppose, but today folks have so many other things on their minds with the hustle of earning a living that they seldom unwind enough to really enjoy the experience.  As I get older, I feel less in touch with them making it more a job than a lifestyle.”  John drank the cider as fast as he ate the deer steaks.  “Well I would be grateful if you gave me a chance.  Even if I didn’t cut it as a guide, I need to learn the skills if I plan on sticking around.”   “As I said, you have the right attitude.  The hardest thing for people to understand is that every client is different.  I hate the word client, but that’s what we will call them.   Everyone has a story, and as I mentioned before, you never know what a person is going through in their life.”

John spent the next couple of days scraping paint and re-attaching old ceder shingles on the barn.  Some shingles had to be replaced and much of the trim was rotten to the point of disrepair.  Les was handy at carpentry, but admittedly, was no expert.  After two long days of preparation the barn was ready for paint.  Les returned with two five gallon buckets of primer, and when John applied it the old boards reacted like a kitchen sponge.  The weather was cooperative for the next few days, and at the end of the weekend the old barn had taken on a new look.  The trim had been fixed and squared and some of the windows were re-pained and now shut tightly without rattling.  Les took down the old front door and completely built a new one that slid easily on the old forged tracks that had been made on-sight when the farm had its own blacksmith shop.

As much as John didn’t want to think about it, he needed to return the car and buy a bus ticket back to New Jersey.  He thought of alternate scenarios  but the best one consisted of a job application working for the forest regulation committee.   It wasn’t a complete fabrication because he did notice an ad in a flyer at the hardware store that mentioned an opening in the surveying department.  Regardless what he told them, he knew it would be less than expected by his parents. That was what he had to deal with in a few days.   For now, he rolled down the window and felt that cool air from the Aroostook River and  smelled the green peaked trees filling his mind with thoughts of campfires and sizzling brook trout.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD TODAY

How fixing a brake line on a 1990 Jeep Wrangler is a metaphor for what’s wrong with the world today.

Working on our Wrangler in North Carolina got me ranting philosophically about what I see as being wrong with the world today.

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My most recent video: https://goo.gl/vRwujq

My website:
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See the Saw-Whet Mini Folding Bushcraft Saw:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aLKiFDYb0c

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https://www.etsy.com/listing/589291557/saw-whet-folding-buck-saw-hand-crafted

Current & Upcoming Events | JMB Podcast Episode 40

This podcast is a production of Jack Mountain Bushcraft Media. The Working Class Woodsman may or may not be a guest in this particular podcast episode and is not responsible for the content (especially for anything he might say when he's a guest).


Episode 40 of the JMB Podcast is about current and upcoming events. Christopher and I discuss what we’re working on to upgrade the field school, upcoming trips and programs, stocking our pond with brook trout, and our new team resiliency training.

Links:

PHOTO: Big breakfast cooking in the big frying pan on the big rocket stove.


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Stitcher Link | Play, Download Or Subscribe In Stitcher
Google Play Music Link | Now Available On Google Play Music

 

Warbonnet Blackbird XLC Review (Wilderness Camping Hammock)

After years of indecisiveness, I finally took the step and got into hammock camping. I wish I had tried one out when it first became popular again. When I attended the 2018 New England Bushcraft show I met Micah George from N. E. Wilderness (an organization that teaches bushcraft in and around central/western Massachusetts) and he was rocking a couple of these set-ups. I liked his and I also like his philosophy of going light and leaving no trace. I contacted the good folks at Warbonnet and they answered about any question I could throw at them. I received the hammock two days later and went straight to northern Maine on a canoe trip and set it up in very thick woods with little or no place available on the ground for a tent. The set-up was extremely easy for the first time I had ever done it. The buckle suspension system is a breeze and accommodates most any tree you have available. I did have to insert a sleeping pad in the double layer bottom half way through the night as temps got down in the 20’s, but it was the most comfortable night I have spent sleeping outside in years. The sewn in bug netting will be very appreciated once the black flies come out and the heavy duty construction of this hammock gives you a very secure feeling when falling asleep in the north woods. Warbonnet is located in Evergreen, Colorado, and is made by American workers with American Materials. Give their website a visit and check them out, you won’t be disappointed with this product.

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Bowfishing for Sucker Fish in New Hampshire (catch, clean, and cook)

New Hampshire has a sucker season that goes from March 1st to May 31st. When I was a kid, every spring we use to harvest suckers for a couple reasons. The are good eating if done right and they make excellent fertilizer for the garden. It is an overlooked resource like so many other things. I have done a-lot of videos but this is one of the more challenging. I almost lost my camera in the river and had a real hard time setting it up. It was a great day at the river tho, as it always is.

Subscribe to my channel: https://goo.gl/iaR9Eu
My most recent video: https://goo.gl/vRwujq

My website:
https://workingclasswoodsman.com
Follow me on Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/workingclasswoodsman/
And on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/wcwoodsman603
Wares Are Available at the Trading Post: https://workingclasswoodsman.com/trading-post/

See the Saw-Whet Mini Folding Bushcraft Saw:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aLKiFDYb0c

And Get the Saw-Whet here:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/589291557/saw-whet-folding-buck-saw-hand-crafted

Music in this video included:

River Meditation by Audionautix 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Artist: http://audionautix.com/

“Carving a home in the north woods” chapter 4

At first light John was standing at the river, tying on a trout spinner he purchased at the hardware store.  He was determined to catch a brook trout and hopefully have it for breakfast. The worms he bought yesterday were cool and lively when he popped the lid off the tub.  After pinching one in half, he baited the hook of the number six trout spinner and did his best to hide the hook with the worm.    He squeezed a piece of split-shot onto the line about a foot up from the knot and felt pretty good about his presentation.  Walking down the river bank to a piece of ledge that provided him with enough distance from the thick  overhanging conifer limbs, he was able to make a decent cast out into the fast current.  The line was immediately swept down stream and almost instantly snagged on a dead piece of wood half submerged in the fast moving water.  After trying to free his lure for several minutes, he thought he would have to break it off and start over when at the last attempt it somehow freed itself, and John reeled in the bait.  Thinking he didn’t want to repeat this, he moved further down stream to find another good casting spot. The water began to slow down and formed a small eddy.

Casting back out into the current, as he did before, the line still went down stream but at a slower rate than before.  He kept this presentation up for a few casts but wished he could be further out, away from the overhanging branches.  John realized then the importance of hip boots or chest waders when fishing these cold streams.  If he could wade out a bit, he would be able to put his spinner right where he wanted it to maybe entice a strike, rather than the fish just catching a glimpse of it as it rifles down stream.  After several more unsuccessful attempts, John again moved down stream to wider and calmer water.  He stopped at the bottom of the eddy and made a cast straight out to the current and began to reel in when immediately the line went tight.  Somewhat astonished, John brought his hands up to his chest and bent the rod almost in half.  He had a fish, and it felt like a big one.  Almost as fast as the rod bent, the line went slack again. The fish was gone.  He reeled in quickly and made two more casts into the same spot but with no luck.  He then cast a little further to the right and started reeling in.  At about the halfway point he connected with another fish that seemed to dwarf the first one, again the rod doubled, and this time the tip almost touched the water.  John had what felt like a huge fish and was determined not to loose it.  Images of dark football shaped brook trout raced in and out of his mind.  All those stories about Guides and there clients catching record book fish came and left his mind in a split second.  He was finally going to catch one of those illusive creatures and all he had to do is hold on.  It seemed like an eternity, but he knew the fish was almost to the shore when all of a sudden the the water surface broke and the fish came two feet out of the water revealing its bronze back and unmistakable spine fin.  John had caught another small mouth bass.

Still in somewhat of a surreal state of mind, he was able to get the fish in and after it tired enough, he grabbed the bottom jaw to get the hook out.  After the hook was disgorged John thought about keeping it, but he didn’t want bass for breakfast, he wanted a trout.  When he put the fish back in the water he held on to the bottom lip and moved the fish with a back and forth motion to stimulate the fishes gills.  After a few seconds, the bronze back bolted back out into the current and disappeared into the black water.  How could he have possibly caught yet another bass?   He re-baited his spinner with the other half of the worm he’d used before and continued to fish.  In the next two hours he caught two more bass and a creek chub. The sun was rising now and he heard logging trucks off in the distance. There were crows calling each other  to the other side of the river, they were all feeding on a dead rodent that looked like a muskrat.

John returned to the car and pulled out a can of beans and some bread.  He decided to eat the beans cold, wrapped up in the bread to save the effort of starting a fire.  He also figured he should start a list of things he needed, after realizing he had no coffee or means of boiling it.  He ate the can of beans that he opened with his camp knife.  A can opener was at the top of the list, followed by coffee, a coffee pot, hip boots, and a pair of sunglasses. The sun made him squint when it hit the waters surface and gave him a slight headache, not to mention he would be able to make out underwater structure better with a pair of polarized glasses.  He was almost done writing his list on the car hood when he heard an approaching vehicle.  It was Ken from the real estate company.  Ken got out with his usual stride and smile and went straight for a handshake. “Good morning John, I see you like this place.”  John wiped the remaining cold beans off his right hand on his pant leg, and shook Ken’s hand. “I do, in fact I stayed here last night and ate dinner, I hope that’s not a problem.”  “Oh no not at all, no one is going to bother you out here unless you set the woods a blaze.” ” Well I won’t do that, I can promise you.”  Ken looked at the fishing rod leaning against the front bumper of John’s rented car, “any luck fishing?”  ” No, not really, just a couple more bass this morning.”   ” Oh those bass eat up pretty good you know, and there is no shortage of them.” “Oh I ate two last night, they were delicious, just got my mind set on trout.” “You fly fish?”  “No, but I guess I’m going to have to start, I saw a guy catch a couple of beauties yesterday afternoon down off the main road.”  ” Right about this time of year they are doing real good with egg patterns because the suckers are still running and the rivers have been stable.”  John shrugged and felt a bit foolish.  “Egg patterns?”  ” Yeah, you know, the eggs are running out of the suckers and the trout are feeding on them.”  “Well I guess that explains that,” John said.  Ken put his hands in his pockets and looked down at the gravel road. “Hey, I mentioned my brother Lester is a guide the other day.  He is in town for a couple days to attend a funeral, and I’m going up to his house tonight to pick some rhubarb. Your welcome to come along if you’d like.”   ” I would love too, but it sounds like he has things to deal with.”  “He always likes to meet new people. He lives alone, his wife passed away 10 years ago, and he could use some conversation.” ” Fine then, where does he live, and what time?”  ” He lives on the main road just past the plantation, its the white house on the left, we drove right past it looking at those other properties the other day.”   “I remember the signs for a plantation but don’t remember a white house.”  “Can’t miss it.   He drives a green pickup, meet me there at five o’clock this afternoon.   I have to show those properties again to some folks from Connecticut.”  ” Sure thing,” John said,” looking forward to it.”  “Good, see you then.  Also, he goes by the name Les not Lester.  I’m the only one who calls him that.”  Ken said as he was getting back into his car.

John was ecstatic from the idea of meeting an actual Maine Guide for the first time in his life.  He put his fishing pole back in the car and decided to spend the rest of the day getting more supplies and exploring some of the roads he had driven by in the last two days.  When his car came to a stop at the gas pumps back at the hardware store, he noticed a couple of older gentleman eating sandwiches and drinking coffee at the end of the parking lot.  They were both wearing chest waders and had the biggest canoe he had ever seen on a trailer. He wanted to talk with them, but didn’t feel like intruding on their morning by asking questions.  He couldn’t help but marvel at them and the old wooden square stern they had attached to their truck.  He filled his tank and went inside to pay.  Mert was behind the register and greeted him with the same smile. “Mornin’, how’s the fishin?” he asked.  “Oh just some bass and a chub, nothing spectacular.” “You eat the bass?  They are tasty when the water is this cold.”  “I ate two last night,  but put some back this morning.  I want to get a trout.”  “Those two out in the parking lot caught some nice ones today.” “Really?” John replied. “Yup, been hittin’ good first light, then slows down after a couple hours, usually it picks up an hour before dark.”  Bewildered, he changed the subject, “You have any coffee pots for sale?”  “Sure, out back by the light bulbs.” John found a coffee pot and noticed a couple pair of hip boots on the next shelf down.  He picked one up and blew the dust off, they were a size eleven, perfect.  He found a can opener close by and grabbed a can of coffee.  When he went to the counter Mert’s face, again, lit up.  “We’ve had those hip boots here for five years!” he said, “glad to see them gone.”  “Yeah, I needed a pair this morning.”

John spent that morning driving on the back roads that seemed to go on for ever.  They were in fairly decent shape and he was able to maneuver his car around the few high water areas he encountered.  The roads went on for miles and then all of a sudden came to  big landing areas where the timber companies piled all their logs until they were shipped out. The amount of trees cut and piled surprised him.  He couldn’t imagine how with all this timber on the ground, and the never ending convoys of logging trucks he saw on the highway, there could still be a forest left.  However, it seemed the trees just kept going.  The only sign of civilization were the roads and the clearings that had old and expired timber harvesting equipment  rusting into the ground. Every landing had at least one dead machine and piles of plastic buckets that at one time contained hydraulic fluid, or some petroleum product. These sights brought John’s thoughts back to his studies at the university.  He started to see, first hand,  the impact of development  to a given landscape. This made him wonder how anyone plowing a cornfield in Iowa could possibly know the effects of harvesting a forest in Maine, or if a person buying lumber in Colorado knew it meant fewer trees in the north east woodlands.  On the other hand, what would a timber harvester from Maine know about Hybrid seeds and petroleum fertilizers in Ohio, without the benefit of a college education?  Just because its not happening right in front of you, doesn’t mean it isn’t going on.

The sound of an oncoming tractor trailer down the gravel road got John’s attention, and he was able to pull off the road and let the truck pass.  It seemed to be going at a good rate of speed and was loaded heavy.  John rolled his window up to keep the dust out, and when the truck passed he continued on.  After the dust cleared, he rolled his window down and immediately felt a cooler air temperature and heard the sound of a river.  When he got to a bridge and saw the big river, he realized it was the St. Croix Stream.  The river that flowed beside his property was a tributary of this river.  John pulled off the road and shut down the engine.  He looked up river and could start to see how the early settlers were able to get from place to place using only a canoe. These rivers were the early highways and trade routes,  also used for harvesting the tall trees of the forest that were floated down stream.  Very skilled men could manipulate them with long sticks,  jumping from tree to tree, preventing log jams and keeping the flow of timber running into the mills downstream.  These log drivers, like the Maine Guides, have a place in history that could never be recreated.  These men woke up every day before light and worked until the sun went down, only to do it again the next day, with sore muscles and worn out tools.  They had a sense of ruggedness and character that can never be emulated.  The days of log driving are gone forever with the advent of modern, more efficient equipment. The rivers flow free and are healthier without the constant buildup of tree bark and rotting timber.  The fish can spawn and the water runs clear.  John felt a slight sense of envy for those who lived this lifestyle just as he felt admiration for the old Maine Guides.  The loggers of today are still hard workers, and the younger generation of guides are more versed in the ecology of the woods, which helps them to understand and preserve the wilderness, but with that understanding and education, comes a softer and less charismatic soul.

When John got back to the main road the sun was well on it’s way west.  He knew about how far it was to Ken’s brothers house, and figured it was a forty five minute drive from where he was now.  He thought about getting something to eat in town, but decided to eat a couple pieces of dry bread to hold him over.  He drove in the direction of the plantation and stopped at a farm stand to by some honey.  The man at the stand had an old canoe for sale which John found interesting.  It was made of ceder and covered with canvas. The seams needed work, but it still looked solid.  John was surprised how heavy it was, and thought he would like something lighter if he ever bought a canoe.

When he got to the plantation he saw it was four-forty five on the car’s clock. He noticed a little white house at the other end of the field and assumed that belonged to Les.  There was a green pickup in the driveway with a big canoe on top of the rack.   After a few minutes he saw Ken’s sedan coming from the other direction,  pulling in the north end of the u-shaped driveway.  John felt a bit nervous, but put the car in gear and drove up the road to the little house. Ken was standing beside a taller version of himself, looking out over the field and talking about tractors. When John got out of the car,  Ken walked over to him with the usual friendliness. “John, this is my brother Les.”   Les was a couple inches taller than Ken and had a look of hardness.  His hair and posture told the story;  deep lines in his forehead and leather like skin on his big hands from a lifetime of working outside in the elements. The top of his back was rounded from lifting heavy loads and sleeping under canoes.  The sun had bleached his hair and his fingers looked disjointed.  He stood close to six feet tall but his body was mostly torso.

“Hello, Ken tells me your buying land off north road” as he shook John’s hand. “Well, yeah.  I’m in the process.  Hopefully it will be done in a couple weeks,” John replied.  “That’s a nice piece of land there, I used to camp just down the river on some of the old canoe trips.”  “Do you still guide trips there?” John asked. “Not in years, not too many people doing canoe trips anymore.” “Really?”  “Yeah, I mostly do fly fishing trips and moose hunts these days.  The few canoe trips I get are one day events.”  “I’m surprised to hear that,” John replied.   “I used to be booked all summer for canoe trips that took a week to complete, but people just aren’t into it like they used to be.”  “I see canoes everywhere though.”  “Oh sure, no shortage in sales, however people would just as soon sleep in a motel and do day trips.  They hire you once to get comfortable, then they are experts, you know what I mean?”  John was a bit surprised, but thinking about his college friends and their interests he could see Les’s point.  “Who want’s coffee?” Les asked.  Ken said, “Thought you’d never ask!  You guys go inside and I’ll pick some rhubarb, see you in a bit.”

John followed Les into the house and let the wood-framed screen door close behind him.  It was a very modest home with a front kitchen and metal cabinets.  It seemed very sparse.  Les seemed like a simple sort of man and probably didn’t need many creature comforts. “Have a seat while I get the coffee going.”  John pulled out the red, vinyl backed chair and sat down at the table.  He liked the big metal rim that went around the edge of the table and could see from the wear marks where Les had most of his meals. “Nice table” John said.  “It came with the house forty years ago, been a good one.”  “You’ve lived here forty years?” John asked. “Yup, don’t plan on movin’ either.”  Les scooped out some coffee from the metal canister and counted four scoops as he filled the basket of a glass percolator that was on the stove.  Les opened  the refrigerator and pulled out a paper bag full of fresh fiddlehead ferns he picked earlier that day.  “You want to stay for dinner?”  “Oh I don’t want to put you out, you have things to do.”  “Your more than welcome to stay, I’m not going anywhere and Ken has to be back at the office by seven o’clock tonight.” “He works long hours doesn’t he.”  “Sure does, but he’s always been the go-getter.”   John felt like Les actually wanted his company and wasn’t just being polite.  “Sure, if you don’t mind, I would love to.”  “Sure thing, I have some brook trout I caught yesterday and just tapped a new keg of cider.”  “You make hard cider?”  ” Its been a family tradition.   My father made the best cider in the county, even through prohibition.”  “I’ve never tried it before.”   Les turned his head with a grin  “Where are you from man?  Never had hard cider?  What ails you?”   John felt a little more comfortable now Les was joking with him.  “I was going to make some rhubarb cobbler too if that don’t scare you off.”   “You seem to do your fair share of cooking,” John said.  “Les started cleaning the fiddleheads in the sink with an old enamel colander.  “That’s about all I do these days, cook and tie knots.”  “Really?” John asked.  “Pretty much, most of my clients have never fished and have always wanted to try.  They often never come back, a few do, but not many.”

Ken came into the kitchen with a big pile of rhubarb and put it in the sink. “That should do it, I will take half and you keep the rest, as long as I get some cobbler tomorrow.”  “Fair enough.”  The coffee was done and John was looking forward to a cup as he missed his morning coffee ritual.  Ken pulled out a chair and sat down with coffee. “Anybody need cream?”  Les asked with the refrigerator door still open.  “Nope, all set here, unless John needs it.”  “I’m good, thanks.” Les and Ken talked about the old tractor out in the yard and came to the conclusion it was time for a new one.  John sat sipping his coffee and enjoyed listening to the two brothers talk.  After Ken finished his coffee, he left for the office and Les started boiling water for the fiddleheads.  “Why do you boil them” John asked.  “You actually blanch them, just for about two minutes, it takes the bitterness out of them. Then you cook them in a pan with some salt and pepper for a few minutes.”  Les pulled two brook trout out of the refrigerator that looked to be sixteen inches long.  “Wow, those are nice!” John said. “Not a bad pair” replied Les.  “How did you catch them?”  Les pulled a film canister from his pocket and told John to open it.  John removed a beautiful red, white, and blue fly with a gold bead on the eyelet. ”  “Wow, that looks amazing.”  “Don’t it though,” Les said with a grin.  “I’d say it works good by the looks of these fish,” John said with confidence.   Les reached in his other pocket and handed John another canister.  John looked inside and saw the tiniest hook he had ever seen with some yellow thread wrapped around it.  He thought it looked like a worn out fly Les was saving for the hook. “That is the fly I used, the pretty one is for the people that ask me what I catch fish on.”  John felt a bit foolish for  assuming the fish would love the looks of that fancy fly.  “Its all about matching the hatch, what fish eat depends on the environment they are in at the time.  It changes constantly.   A good fisherman has to adapt quickly, what works this afternoon may not work tomorrow, but then again,  it might.”  “So which fly will you use tomorrow?”  “The one that works,”  Les said with a crooked smile.

After the fiddleheads were blanched and the two trout were rolled in flour, Les started heating up a cast iron fry pan.   He cooked the ferns in butter first, then put the fish into the remaining liquid left over in the cast iron. The trout cracked in the pan, Les put some salt and pepper on them. He flipped them twice letting the skin get crispy.   John was starving, all he had eaten that day was a can of cold beans and a few slices of plain bread.  They sat down at the table and Les had his jug of cider, filling two glasses.  He slid one to John and raised his with a gesture of cheers. They chinked glasses and John took a sip. The cider had a fruity smell and when it hit the roof of his mouth it made him salivate.  John had tasted a few wines in college and this reminded him of a very expensive pinot grigio, only better.  “That’s amazing” John said.  “I do love my cider” Les replied.  The fish was delicious and the fiddleheads the same. John enjoyed his meal, but felt like he ate too fast as Les was only half way through his plate.   “You were hungry!”  John wiped his face with a napkin and said “Yeah, I guess I was.”  After Les finished, he poured another two glasses of cider. “Your more than welcome to stay here tonight, I have an extra room.” “Oh I don’t want to put you out.”  “Your not putting me out at all, plus I am making some cobbler and will need help eating it.  That is unless you like sleeping in that car more than I realize.”  “How did you know that I slept in the car.”  “Your sleeping bag is spread out in the back seat, I deduced it.”   John again felt foolish.  “Ken tells me you are interested in living up here and maybe getting some work.”  “I want to build a place and start living off grid,”John said. “That seems to be a trend with people from the city, move away from the hustle and bustle and start over, live a simpler life.”  “Yeah that’s the idea, but I don’t think too many people I know would last up here.”  ” Well therein lies the problem, John.  When people come up here they tend to bring bad habits with them.  Not everyone, but a great percentage want the same comforts they had in the city.”  “Isn’t that counter productive?”  Les took another drink of cider and set the glass down.  “I hear people talking about sub developments and building bigger houses constantly.  I see roads being built and more cars coming up the highway every year.  I’ve lived here almost three quarters of a century and every year there is a little less forest and a few more houses.”  “Do you think at some point the forest will be gone?” John asked.  “Oh not in our lifetime. It will eventually be developed and sparse but not gone all together, but that’s not the real issue.  The issue is loss of habitat. The reason we have the wildlife, and the streams are clear is because there are only a few people living here and the mills are shutting down.   All the farms are going away because you can’t make enough money farming to pay the taxes.  The people have no choice but to sell to developers.  The timber companies still own a huge portion, but that is forever changing.”   “What keeps things going then?” Recreation, but not hunting and fishing.  People want to ride snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles.  They want to drive a boat, not pole a canoe up river. ”  “Do you see this through being a guide?”  “I started guiding back when I was your age, it was different.  You felt, at the end of the day, you taught someone something and you had a friendship that lasted a lifetime.  Today its more about pictures and bucket lists.  I seldom get repeat customers and I see the best and worst in people.”  “Do you see a difference in the younger people becoming guides?”  ” Most definitely. The younger generation are trying to preserve a tradition they know nothing about.”  “How so?”  “Well for instance, you have a young person who has read a dozen books and seen a few movies and has romanticized what they have read or seen in pictures.  There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact its healthy.  However, very few people can completely strip themselves of everything that’s been instilled in them up to that point in their life. Today’s society breeds complacency and people are inherently lazy by nature.”  John took another drink of cider and leaned back in his chair.  “So what is the future of being a guide, in your thoughts?”  “There will always be work guiding, and there will always be guides, it’s just a different client with different ambitions.  If you think about it though, the younger guides are more in line with the modern clients needs, kind of like birds in a feather.”  “I guess I never thought of it like that.”   “That’s just my take on it, one persons opinion.”  “Yeah but you’ve seen it all over your lifetime, people coming and  going, things changing.”  “Sure, but that’s just my side of it.  I don’t know where people are coming from, or for that matter, what they have gone through up to this point in there life.”

John finished his cider and got up to rinse his glass.  He was connecting the dots in his head.  “You want me to clean up these dishes, Les”?  “Nope, put them in the tub and lets get going on that rhubarb cobbler,  I have some home made  ice cream to go with it.”  John wasn’t surprised.

 

Female Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) on her nest

It is a rare thing to find a wild bird on their nest. We found a Ruffed grouse on 9 eggs. If you ever encounter a grouse in the spring and they are running on the ground like they have a broken wing, it may be a female trying to lure you away from her nest. If you find a nest stay away and do not tamper with it. Wild birds have many predators and the survival rate is low for birds.

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The Saw-Whet Mini Folding Bushcraft saw:
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Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) the other white meat..

One of the most disregarded species in the pond is the snapping turtle. They are a very important part of the eco system and need to be present. They are also good eating if the mood should strike you or you are starving to death. I grew up as a kid eating them in stews and different recipes but they are best when slow cooked. In general you’re best off to leave them be and help them across the road when you see them struggling but DO NOT pick them up. If you have to move one use a shovel and coax it along.

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My website: https://workingclasswoodsman.com
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/wcwoodsman603
Trading Post: https://workingclasswoodsman.com/trading-post/

The Saw-Whet Mini Folding Bushcraft saw:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aLKiFDYb0c

Get the Saw-Whet here:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/589291557/saw-whet-folding-buck-saw-hand-crafted