Saturday, December 19, 2009

Coming Down From The Mountain

In June this past summer while looking for a place to cut wood I was introduced to this guy living way up in the mountains behind my cabin. Frank and I hit it off and he let harvest as much wood as I needed from his land. He had only been living up there for about a month staying in an old 32 foot trailer while building his cabin.

I took a break from cutting one day and wandered over to check his progress. Franks cabin was an actual log cabin built with big felled logs from the land. An ungodly amount of work cutting the trees, dragging them to the site, trimming the logs and eventually lifting the foot round monsters into place. By mid July he had the foundation and one full run of logs around the outside of the place. It was roughly 20 x 30 and two stories. A ton of work.

Anyway he told me that he had planned on having the place enclosed by the first snow which would happen in mid September. He actually had to have the cabin ready because his place was inaccessible after the first snow until April. If it was not quite finished he told me he would stay in the trailer and work through the winter.

As the summer progressed he enthusiastically worked on the cabin but it became clear by the middle of August that it wouldn't be anywhere near ready. I started asking him if he was prepared to winter up there, you know standard questions like do you have plenty of food and water for 6 months, how are you planning on heating that camper (he had 2 twenty pound propane bottles), can you survive the isolation through the winter. I knew that he was going to town to visit and pick up groceries every couple of days but Frank assured me that everything was fine as he continued to work on the cabin.

End of August Frank dropped by to visit and show off a shotgun and rifle he had picked up after selling a couple cords of wood. He was worried about bears he told me.

About a week into September Frank shows up at the house with a look of panic on his face. It had snowed the previous night up in the mountains and it took him a couple of hours to get off his land and down the road to my place. Frank asked if I could help him pull his trailer down to the lake. My truck was big enough to pull the massive thing. He said he was worried about getting snow bound. I said "isn't that plan, isn't that why you stored food" he told me that he had planned on storing plenty of food but didn't get around to it and only had a few days worth up there. Even worse both his propane tanks were empty.

So I went up and after much wrangling we were able to pull the beast down the mountain through the mud and ice. It was slick, treacherous and the master cylinder had gone out on the truck about a month before so stopping was a difficult task. Another day and we wouldn't have gotten the thing out of there. Fortunately Frank was able to make arrangement with one of the ranch owners down here and rented some land on a maintained road to camp out for the winter.

The point I am trying to make is don't get caught up in the fun and forget the necessary. It doesn't matter if you are staying in a camper, tent or cabin. Without heat, food and water you will not survive.


Sixbears said...

You don't mess with Old Man Winter.

I'm helping friends wire their off-grid house. The shell was supposed to be ready by June. It's still not completely closed up, as the windows need to be installed -holes covered with typar. I wasn't able to start wiring until December. Stuff happens. They fell into a winter house sitting job, but must be in their house by May.

Today they put in a huge woodstove so we won't freeze. Plenty of subzero days lately.

They'll have a roof over their head. It'll have electric, but might not have running water. All depends on when the ground thaws enough to lay pipe from the well.

There are two rules about house construction: everything cost more and takes longer.

Yukon Mike said...

I hope he survives. I have lived in a RV through three winters and they are cold and water must be carried in because of frozen pipes. Even with an unlimited supply of propane and grid power it's not an ideal living situation unless it is well planned in advance, then it's not bad.

Being a self-reliant person requires a lot of mental work as well as physical work.

One of my sayings is, "Fail to Plan --- Plan to Fail".

Anonymous said...

He will learn, trial by fire as they say. I have been building on my place in NC for years, driving, or flying up from Ft. Lauderdale to make it to the cabin for spans of 2 weeks or less, but learned by now, every mistake has been a lesson, always have 2X what you need on hand, never leave the place without food or propane, and dont drive up from Florida in winter in shorts and flip flops!

Mayberry said...

It never ceases to amaze me, the careless attitude of some people. I've seen folks offshore in tiny boats with no bilge pumps or emergency gear. Every time a hurricane approaches, stores get wiped out of plywood, batteries, and bottled water. Folks have no understanding of the forces at work around them, and probably have that "someone will help me" attitude. They can't fathom the thought that "someone" might not get there in time, or not get there at all. So many deaths could have been prevented by a little forethought, a little planning, and a little preparation. But that requires effort, something a lot of folks are unwilling to put forth these days....

HermitJim said...

Some lessons are best learned the hard way!

Hard learned, never forgotten!

Did it MY way said...

Lessons learned the hard way are usually not repeated. Loss of life by being second chance. Learn then do, not do then learn.

See Ya

Whit Spurzon said...

Thoreau had it right - there is a lot to be said for simplicity and scale.

Anonymous said...

He got lucky that he had a good neighbor willing to help. Hopefully that courtesy will be returned in the future, sounds like it will be a nice place when he gets it finished up and stocked properly.

Anonymous said...

fallout11 forgets that frank let the original poster harvest plenty of firewood from his land. He was already a good neighbor.