Improvements to Base Camp are so much more scenic than improvements we make to the soil of the Would-Be Farm.
Last I checked, almost nobody likes to look at pictures of well-aged manure or leaf mould. And frankly, the process of lopping and shaping the old apple trees is worth about two whole sentences...not that I limit myself...
So, back to Base Camp: a worn, dented, bargain-basement camper, regardless the fresh paint, is wont to crumple under the weight of snow if given the opportunity. And –– situated as it is at the business end of the Great Lakes, our Would-Be Farm provides month after month of snow opportunity.
What's a sensible and interesting solution? Lacking a time-machine and a money-tree with which to re-write history, we decided to put a lid on it. A roof, to be exact.
A variety of creative but perhaps over-ambitious or overly-complicated options floated by. Since I kind of sold the idea of the farm to Mr. Linton as an excellent source of new neural pathways (see also: Adventure! Fresh air! Wildlife!), Base Camp has succeeded. It has certainly given us some cool intellectual puzzles to ponder.
The question of materials -- reclaimed or new, for instance, kept us busy for a chunk of time. I'd like to say we have the moral satisfaction and savings of reusing lumber, but it's obvious we did not use used. The logistical challenge of locating the square footage of metal roofing -- and getting it to the Farm? And recycling that many 2x4's? Uh, not on our schedule.
I can take some small satisfaction in supporting a locally-owned business that cheerfully delivered on time.
With the help of some of the best carpentering minds of our acquaintance –– including my sister Sarah, Jeff's brother John, bright North Country all-rounder Kurt –– we set our minds on a pole-barn constructed around the camper. The walls to be be left open (it's kind of a temporary building ––for now) and the sheltering metal roof to include transparent panels for light. Add a sizable wooden deck to cut down on the mud, and poof! Base Camp suddenly looks a LOT sturdier.
Of course, we had to move the fire pit, and we learned that the Empire apple-tree we planted is just a scoochy-bitty-bit too close to the camper, and who knows what the squirrels and field-mice and voles think about this little slice of heaven come snow-time, but that's a neural challenge for another season.
This parent osprey and his/her brood of two are keeping watch over the northern side of the house these days. When not eating fish, the three line up and watch us earth-bound creatures as we move around in the sand.
Getting a bead on us in their sharp eyesight, they all three perform a sassy head-slide, as if saying, "Oh no you dint-ent!"
They make a LOT of noise: they are the avian version of SNL's Loud family. (An obscure sketch that was too annoying to continue...)
The scientific name is Pandion haliaetus, after Athenian king Pandion whose daughters were turned into birds after an unfortunate domestic-violence-rape-and-cannibalism incident. After that bit of flair, it's a bit of a let-down to find out that "haliaetus" means "eagle." The osprey is supposedly also known as a fish-eagle. Not that I have ever heard them called so.
The osprey (along with most of our North American birds of prey) nearly died out in the 1960's and 1970's, as the pesticide DDT in the food chain led to fatally thin eggshells. It's been a pleasure to watch the numbers bounce back. 22 ospreys on the the light fixtures on the 3-mile-long Howard Frankland Bridge the other day. Thank you Rachel Carson and Silent Spring!
I imagined that it would be easy to list a dozen things a day that make me happy. Two dozen. More –– I recognize that I live a cheerful and lucky life. But as it turns out, it's often the same things each day. Here are a few:
Sailors. They love a good tall-tale metaphor. If the wind is not "blowing the dogs off their chains" or "blowing stink," well, then "Watching sailboats race is as exciting as watching paint dry." "...as watching grass grow." "...as watching iron rust."
The language of sailing –– salty, and specialized as a secret code –– appeals to me nearly as much as the experience of it.
The arcane vocabulary: Outboard vangs. Gennikers. Mast-abeam! Righting moments and sea-room. Halyards. The headed tack. Sheets and blocks and binnacles. And cabbages and kings.
For additional entertainment value, some phrases have a specific and divergent meaning in another setting. A sailor's "short sheet" is considerably less comical than a camper's. Broaches are still out of fashion, but "puff on" might also be describing a fluffy bedspread. And it's far less macabre than it sounds to "loosen the shrouds" on a sailboat.
A quick visit to 1930's London provides another sort of "topping lift." Maybe in this nifty ride?
Likewise "Head up" is solid advice for equestrians, while "Bear off" simply makes good sense in any setting. And don't even get my inner 12-year-old going on the whole spinnker-pole/guy thing. Or "trim." Or "rhumb lines."
One of the youngsters of my acquaintance, a feisty little scrapper, used to echo her dad's call to "Tack!" with a maniacal chorus of "Attack! Attack! Attack!"
In any case, I'm okay with Disney pink these days.
Wear pink all you like, boys and girls, but please learn to change the oil in the lawn-mower and don't turn your nose up because some skill set seems to belong to the other half of the world. That is all. Carry on.
(These images lifted from Arthur Rackham's wonderful illustrations for Grimm's Fairy Tales and The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Alfred W. Pollard's abridgment of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.)
Anyone driving up or down the east coast of the US on I-95 knows this place.
South of the Border is a classic high camp roadside attraction that started in 1950 -- a good twenty years before I-95 really got going as the highway Voted Most Likely to Host a Serial Killer.
I'm usually okay with traveling solo, but this is not a destination I recommend for visiting without company. "High camp" feels pretty freaky-strange after a few hundred miles of divided highway driving.
All these outsized concrete animals tracking you with hungry concrete eyes.
It's like the song by the Doors, "People are strange/When you're a stranger."
But I think you'd be perfectly fine with company. Especially if they will watch your back while you're looking through the view-finder.
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