Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NHVSP 2011 Update 10

Hey there. Do you hear that pitter-patter? The rain drops colliding with the roof? I can hear them even here, in this hard-house where I sit typing on a computer. In our village a few hundred meters from here, we are even closer to the weather. As it drums on the cotton sheets above our heads, we speak louder, trying to have our voices heard above nature, but then there is a brief white flash penetrating all walls of our thin building and a moment later the thunder, and we can not do anything but be quiet, listen, and let something else speak.

It is a time for great rain, great thunder, great postholes, and a great canoe. Spring is arriving.  We do not need to live on our faith in it anymore; we can see it with our own eyes. With the building of our canoe, we finally fell into a daily rhythm again. We have morning and afternoon chores, and divide ourselves into canoe groups and big job groups, switching after lunch. The building process of the canoe has gone by faster and easier than we expected, maybe because we are so many hands to help. Scott is a great woodworker and is guiding us steadily along together with Elisa Schine, his assistant, who is working for Kroka this spring. They are both wonderful, funny, and capable people.   We are enjoying having them in our community so much.

The first day when we arrived at the workshop for canoe building, we were met by the sight of the mold: a canoe shape upside down, not hollow like a canoe would be, mostly solid, made out of wood with broad flat metal strips running down it every quarter foot or so. We began the work of bending narrow ribs of white cedar, hot out of the steam box, around the mold and nailing them to the inwale. After we had a full ribbed canoe, a skeleton of what was to come, we could begin the planking. Long, thin, but broad planks, also of white cedar (a naturally rot-resistant wood), would be bent, sawed and planed to fit in their place horizontally along the canoe (almost like a big wooden puzzle), and then nailed to the ribs underneath with small brass tacks. The tacks go through both pieces of wood and hit the metal of the mold underneath, which make the ends of them bend back into the wood and lock.
We then got to take the canoe of the mold, turn it right side up and take in the sight of our creation, all beautiful lines and fresh white wood with the smell of the forest. Then there were several bits and pieces that needed work, stern and bow and outwales and decks and thwart and handles and also clinching all the tacks of the planking – hammer them in a bit further while holding a clinching iron to the inside of them to make sure nothing was poking out on either side. Then there was a whole lot of sanding to do before we were ready for varnish – and now today, the canvas. All along Jake and Nimrod have been caning (a type of weaving) the seats enthusiastically, and Tim and Nimrod had the honor of carving their art onto the decks. Now we just need some filler and color on that canvas before the beauty is done – and she sure is a beauty, all the girls and guys of this semester are going to fight (very nicely) over her – we just can’t help this attraction.

We have also found time for some special evenings this week. Northwoods Stewardship Center screened the film Mother Nature’s Child ( ) last Friday with the director Camilla Rockwell there to present and speak about it. It tells about the effect of nature on humans, especially children and adolescents, and Kroka and the NH-Vermont Semester 2009 feature heavily in it. We all found it quite amazing to see ourselves from the outside this way, for it was so familiar it could just as well have been us, and I think we all saw even clearer how right it feels that we are doing this. Saturday night we had a bonfire dinner: first walnut bread on a stick, and then roasted deer ribs from the road kill Chris brought us with rice and vegetables. Sam had dug us a fire pit, so we had the fire on the ground and sat on the three feet snow banks around it, having our evening meeting there just as it was getting dark, before moving into the tent for an evening reading of “Northern Borders”.

Sunday was a day that needs its own paragraph. We had heard rumors of warm weather coming, and though we had eaten some nice picnic lunches (in Julian’s soccer pit) the last few days, this was the day it really hit us. We got some good chores done in the morning, and as time for breakfast arrived the sun was shining and we couldn’t eat inside. Sunday is our day for “relaxing” here at Northwoods.  So, taking advantage of the good weather, after breakfast we were going canoeing for the first time. We got ourselves ready, but had to wait for some time – time that was used wisely on sunbathing, sun praising and stripping of layers to let that glorious sun lick our white skin. Then we got down to the Clyde River where Elisa gave us a paddling technique lesson before we got on the water. It was sunny, beautiful and amazingly fun. We felt quite like pioneers as we broke through bridges of rotten ice that were in our way.
Then we had to turn back round, but with fresh longing for that day when we won’t turn, but just continue, up that same strip of water and then down another river. We came back for a memorable egg salad lunch in the soccer pit, before we had a bit of camp clean up, followed by free time until dinner, a strange concept for us. When did we last really have free time? We declared ourselves 30 minutes of free time for burl hunting or napping on the group solo on the third leg, but since then? What to do with it? Some sewing repairs got done and some showers were taken, but quite a bit of big job work got mysteriously done too (though there was also some letter writing and delectable guitar playing happening). Dinner that evening ended with an amazing dessert of Nimrod’s homemade Apple Strudel with ice cream donated from Scott and Elisa (who have learned that the way to our hearts is our sweet teeth). We finished up the evening with movie night, watching “Alone in the Wilderness”, a picturesque movie from 1968, following a man building his own home in the wilderness of Alaska.

Many of us have been building too, in our big job time, and hopefully Zane and Rosa will soon have finished setting up our new fancy toilet, though Zane might be distracted by us badgering him to carve a yolk for our water buckets, and Rosa similarly by the competition she and Nate are having to see who can collect and identify the most different tree buds. Julian has been building scraping stations for his buckskins, and after having soaked them in mysterious mixtures of water, ash and who knows what else, he is now urging us all to sign up for buckskin-scraping in our big job time. Tobias is building our spring homes on the sewing machine - tarps that will protect us from the heaven’s waters as we rest our tired bodies on our next expedition. He has also made the prototype for our packbasket liners, so as soon as we get ourselves together and sew our own, we can carry our stuff safely in the rain.

Jon has set up our little sugaring house (which isn’t actually a house, but an outdoor sugar boiling tank), started his own little sugarbush that is running happily and has turned out almost a gallon of syrup (mostly from local bought sap) for the pleasure of all of us. Tim has been building our journey, lining up maps, planning our campsites and writing the expedition plan, as well as starting an art project of a Vermont map. Sam has been baking sourdough bread, running up and down to the food storages several times daily for different supplies and trying to hold off our insistent badgering for in-between-meal-snacks. Nimrod has been supporting our sweet teeth with heavenly baking of different kinds, experimenting with the first generation of maple snaps, as well sharpening all our planes and drawknives. Jake has also been on the experimenting front, working with rocket stove building and trying to figure out how we can best cook our meals on the river, as well as repairing our lanterns and thereby finally giving us some soft light in the evening-dark tent. At this moment he is building our outdoor fireplace, where we will hopefully soon be cooking in 70F and shorts. Bridie has been out in the woods gathering bark for her experiment, and spends hours in the kitchen making salves to heal scrapes and sore muscles. Serene has been planning our food for the canoe trip, as well as making delicious treats like granola and sauerkraut. And I have been weaving another basket, a long thin cylinder to protect our fishing rods when we’re travelling. And now I’m imagining I’m hanging out with you.

The only thing that can hold us down is this aggressive cold that keeps going around and make people sleep in their work time, but soon we’ll be over that too.  The rain got us in a good mood, but now it has stopped, which might mean the sun will be shining soon, and that won’t make us sad either.

Until next week, all you wonderful family and friends and relations and acquaintances and people out there in this big and small world, live your lives and now that we are happily living ours,

Mathilde Vikene
Spring Scribe, NH-Vermont Semester 11’

No comments:

Post a Comment