Wood, part 2.

I’ve been out a few more times since the last entry. Miraculously, despite wind gusts of 50 miles an hour, the structure was just as I left it. No posts had collapsed. The thaw and freeze had further hardened the crust on the snow, which made for easier movement. I started out by cutting branches from a fallen pine tree that I found last week, and gathering slightly thinner branches to fill in the gaps in the structure. I also began scavenging green pine branches for the outer layer. Many of these had been shaken loose by the high winds.

Creating this structure has felt lonelier. Maybe because it is rare that I even hear another human while working. My only consistent company is an ambitious woodpecker, who I hear a lot of. One day I heard lots of voices in the woods, hooting and hollering, and some primitive part of my brain got scared. When I headed out of the woods at the end of the day, I saw buckets on the trees– folks from the farm center had brought a class out to start the maple sugaring!

looking out

from inside

The next step was to add a layer of green pine branches. I scavenged these from the ground, where many had been shaken loose by the wind, and also from the lower branches of the hemlocks that were being weighed down by snow and ice. I cut these free, sometimes causing an exciting upwards sweep of the tree.


from inside looking out

from outside looking in

inside looking up

During my search for these trapped lower branches, I realized that many of them were already in use as shelters. There were holes leading to burrows underneath them, with piles of nutshells tossed out the door.

Once I noticed this, I began seeing them everywhere, and once I saw them, I couldn’t disrupt them, so I had to look farther and farther away in order to find branches that weren’t already in use as shelters! Even though this made my job harder it also made me feel ridiculously happy.

looking in through the door

looking out through the door

The covered shelter looks like big green pod, hugging the tree that rises out of it. Inside is cozier now that the walls are more solid. I based this design on some debris shelters I’d seen pictures of, and also on the primitive structure I worked on last summer, modified to make the structure roughly tipi or pine-tree shaped.

Throughout this process I have always made an effort to leave before dark. Saturday I did the opposite, so that I could see the structure lit from within.


I just discovered a useful book on shelter building: Shelters, Shacks and Shanties and How to Build Them, by D.C. Beard. It was first published as a guide for “outdoorsmen and scouts” in 1914, so there may be some backwards language in it, but it also has good clear directions and nice illustrations that tell you how to make many different types of structures of varying complexity. Plus the guy’s name is beard, how could you not want to read it?

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