don’t laff it could happen to you!

its my firewood and i’ll pile it how i want

“all who trust in their riches will fall.”

In my days of guiding i have encountered a very few individuals whom i would count as “arrogant”. It’s not a label anyone would choose for herself but rather, it is normally applied to people against their personal wishes. Recognizing this, most adopt a stance of open humility, whilst keeping their personal self-admiration a private sort of thing.

The unashamedly arrogant amongst us are much easier to detect.

I recall an individual from a long ago hunting trip who struck me as being particularly fond of himself. Having made a hunting trip to Africa or two, he expounded on how the “locals” (my descriptor, not his) would do absolutely anything for one american dollar. He considered them stupid for this appetite for money, and he may have had a point there, although i had to disagree with the conclusion of his that the locals were stupid. What were their alternatives, i wondered to myself? And come to think of it, was the hunter mocking me too? After all, I was doing all manner of menial labor at the time, searching for horses in the morning, heating water for their washing comfort and so on, for a lousy 50 bucks a day. Sooo, yes, this particular dude considered himself superior to me as well no doubt, due to his personal wealth, which was considerable greater than my own. And yet…

It was this man’s earthly father who warned me that “the farther up the tree you get, the more of your ass is showing!”, a warning i have taken to heart and stayed at a much lower level on the tree to this point!

It is a fact of life that security in this world simply doesn’t exist for even the “most blessed” of individuals, and anyone of us can be dropped in a second by the correct application of destructive force. Anyone can also be rendered homeless and bankrupt. There are simply no guarantees.

Homelessness is a trial i would only wish on a very few select “folks”. Personally, i have yet to experience it in all it’s full splendor but I have lived in my camper for an extended period and found it not at all unpleasant. Of course, there are millions of people who would cheerfully be photographed with bill needles on epstain island for a chance at a hope of living in a camper, their only habitation a ratty piece of old plastic, under an overpass in Honolulu. And a shocking sight it is to see hundreds of persecuted homeless in a paradise like Hawaii.

I’ve often wondered why anyone who finds themselves housing challenged would choose to habitate in a city when there are perfectly acceptable natural surroundings nearly everywhere in this world. It is a habit of mine when i travel, to search a new area for edible wild goods. I have been surprised to find very little in some cities where you would think there could be numerous fruit trees throughout. Perhaps this lack of available natural edibles is by design, but many wild regions are rife with edible foods.

In Europe, those few times i have been there, it was no challenge to find a sufficient amount of blackberries, or even cherry trees or apple trees, free for the picking.

Winter of course is another matter altogether, especially in those regions distant from the equator, where hunger is not the only challenge for the homeless. And it is in regards to this particular challenge, that i am writing to offer a potential solution without comment on the legality of this suggestion of mine.

I have always given some thought to potential shelters in the wild, mostly due to the fact that i have suffered through some awful weather in the grate out doors, and the sight of an unoccupied cabin with a woodstove when you are near hypothermic with the cold and the wet, is a most welcome sight. And this last year’s events have only strengthened my resolve to come to some conclusions about how to survive/thrive in the wilds when housing challenged, which btw, could become a reality through a plane crash, civil unrest, legal action, divorce, or any number of other events, and having some kind of an idea of what is needed, may very well tip the scale in your favor at such a time.

What good is the nicest cabin in the woods if it is without a heat source of some kind? Won’t you just be under a roof, yet still freezing to death in a 50 below snap? Now it’s true, the Germans, God bless ’em, have many sayings, and one of my favs is “there is no bad weather, only bad dressing”, and those germans do have a point. I learned a valuable lesson on this topic from an elderly man here in the yukon, on his bicycle on a 20 below night as i returned from a wood cut. His nickname was “packman” but could have been ” michelin-man” just as well because he looked basically like a beach ball with a tiny head in the winter as he pushed his bike along the highway, dressed as he was from head to toe with layer after layer of pants and shirts and jackets. He must have had a system of labels so he knew to put on the smallest clothing first. Truly an amazing fellow, when he tired he would just tip himself over on the berm of snow and go to sleep, which is how i once found him. I thought he was departed perhaps, but he was in fact, totally fine, asleep there in the snow at 20 below in the dark of night with traffic whizzing past. The smell of him in my truck on the way back to town was quite another matter but hey!

Aside from that pro-tip, what i can offer is another suggestion, namely that you would be better off with a woodstove and no cabin, than a cabin with no stove! And why is that? Because from my personal experience, to merely stay alive for one night in even 40 below by an open fire you will consume about a half cord of firewood minimum. Multiply that by a hundred nights and you’re looking at about 50 cords of wood. That’s going to take some cuttin’ and draggin’, one cord being the equivalent of about 16 one foot diameter trees each about 50 feet long. So figure three semi loads of dry wood. Feeling strong are we?

A woodstove with a relatively tight seal is going to go through 5 or 6 cords a winter, or about ten percent of what an open fire consumes. Now, I’m not suggesting anyone would want to sit outside near a woodstove out in the open all winter but even that would be an improvement over the open fire idea, and of course, you are going to find a way to build a shelter around the stove to reflect the heat back and this is going to be the smallest of your problems.

Now we quickly enter the world of legality. And this is not a simple matter, even in the Yukon where you would think there might be an ounce of human compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. Hmm, let me check nope not much. The image of a city employee extinguishing a burning pallet in front of a homeless man, the eviction of a woman camping with her dogs in February in the bush, the forced evacuation of a man and his child from his tent in the winter… just a partial list of goobermental forced evacuations even here. Mercy must never be taken for granted it seems.

Ok, so Apparently you are allowed to camp, but only for a period of time… imagine that! The natives lived here for hundreds of years, camping and roaming the countryside and now a native could potentially be forbidden by a Y. T. for living exactly like his ancestors did… imagine that!

And if so many of our contemporary prophets are right and energy becomes as scarce as a liberal’s integrity, then may i suggest our cities may stand someday emptied of humans and the countryside occupied by people in search of food and shelter? How are millions able to live in cities all over the world? By having the produce brought to them with the use of hydrocarbons! Should we experience an energy shortage due to depletion or goobermental ineptitude, the word “foraging” may soon be back in vogue for us all.

But back to building your transitory temporary shelter of questionable legality, after that long digress, if i may?

“it’s my firewood, and i will stack it how i wish thank you!”

Sadly, the days where it is possible to pick a nice level spot by a lake or a river, clear the land of bush and build a log cabin are probably in the rearview for most of us at this time, unless you can acquire some titled land, and even that is getting sketchy, with property taxes set to march on upwards to the siphoning crowd at the top of the tree, unconcerned as they seem to be at how they look from down where we are here on the ground, so what to do?

But just to follow up on the idea of having a woodstove as opposed to a cabin without one, next we need a way to reflect the heat back and what simpler way could be found than to just stack row of firewood behind your back? Or around the stove completely while you are at it? And then a few poles and some lumber covering on top of that with some more poles on top and it might get kind of nice and cozy in there. And if one side were to be stacked a bit higher than the other, the water would tend to drain off to one side pretty nicely and could be collected for washing purposes, or tea or squirrel soup purposes.

As for the woodstove itself, any steel barrel. or an old culvert and a hammer and a cold chisel should get you started, or even some creativity with a pile of rocks and some clay.

Now we aren’t talking about high living here in terms of paper wealth, but what good will that stuff be anyway when the cowpie hits the windmill?

Published by Douglas Martens

"What can you say when your mind is a total blank?"

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