forests in need of human management
Saturday, September 2 2023
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
It was another beautiful sunny day in the Adirondacks, though I'd been a bit too agressive with charging the Chevy Bolt yesterday, so our inverter algorithmically decided to shut off our power at about 8:00am. But there was enough sun for it turn back only about an hour later.
Naturally, I took advantage of the day to install another (the sixth) sheet of styrofoam on the cabin foundation's south wall. I didn't have to cut this sheet into pieces to get it in, since I was now out from beneath any deck. I did, however, deal with a somewhat violent trench wall collapse, which isn't surprising, since I'd taken no measures to prevent it. Those measure haven't been working, so why bother? It's actually not too much trouble to shovel out the trench after such a collapse, and the result is always a deeper trench than the one I'd been working towards. Today's sheet of styrofoam ended up going sixty inches below grade (for a total height of about 85 inches), which is plenty for the insulative effect I am trying to achieve.
While I was working on that, Gretchen was down at the dock, though her peace (as well as mine) was disturbed by someone who began to shoot. It being Labor Day weekend, such things were to be expected. But there's been so little of this sort of thing since Gretchen complained to Joel about his lakeside gun range that we'd become accustomed to the absence of gunfire. Because of this, Gretchen returned from the lake a bit earlier than she otherwise would've. She then changed into an outfit that included one of her "skorts" (I'm not a huge skort enthusiast, though they superficially resemble a skirt) and set out towards Woodworth Lake Road to investigate where the shooting was coming from. She eventually found the people responsible. It was a guy name Andrew who owns a large tract of land south of Woodworth Lake Road adjacent to its intersection with our driveway. Gretchen ended up talking to Andrew and friends, who were, it turns out, shooting bright orange skeet (that is, clay pigeons). They were completely unaware of how far and wide their shooting could be heard and sheepishly said that they were wrapping things up. Gretchen learned a few other things talking to Andrew, including the fact that he was now living in Seattle and thus wasn't making much use of his Woodworth Lake parcel. He'd recently had it logged under some sort of New York State program that lowers his taxes, which accounts for all the mess and disturbance of a couple months ago.
Then Gretchen came upon an older man she didn't recognize who was riding a four-wheel ATV while drinking a beer. He stopped to chat, not recognizing Gretchen. It turned out it was Joel, who said he was out "getting some fresh air. Judging from activity at his dock, Joel hasn't been up to the lake much this summer. He explained that this was because his sister had died. For her part, Gretchen didn't have much news to share from our lives other than the fact that I'd been laid off from my job. Joel mentioned that he, like Andrew, is going to have his parcel logged as well. He said that by doing so he would be getting a credit for his property taxes as well as half the value of any wood extracted. Mainly, though, he said he likes doing it because it "manages the forest." I, of course, responded to Gretchen that such a thing is an absurdity. A forest never needs to be managed. It is an ecosystem that takes care of itself. Proof of this is the fact that an unmanaged forest is comprised of massive trees that are individually worth fortunes. A managed forest, by contrast, contains scraggly little trees that are often good for little other than being ground up and made into paper. Gretchen didn't have presence of mind to make any such arguments, though she did say that, as for us, we'll be leaving our trees be. It's shocking to think that there are actual people out there who think forests require human management. But I suppose the kind of people who think a good way to get fresh air is to drive around on an ATV while guzzling a beer might be easily convinced of such things by, say, Forest Service propaganda. (If forests don't need to be managed, that would put a lot of "foresters" out of their jobs.)
Joel also had intel about Shane, the guy who has the clearing closest to our cabin, accessed by the same driveway we use. (The clearing contains a circle of stones as a fire pit and a single camp chair, making it the most Unabombery tableau at Woodworth Lake.) Shane actually has two parcels, only one of which borders ours. The other is non-contiguous with that one and along Woodworth Lake Road near what we call the "redneck" parcel (the one with an illegal camper that we've all decided to tolerate). Apparently Shane has started using that other, more distant parcel. He's bought a fancy new trailer for it, which, like the one at the redneck parcel, seems to be there all the time. Joel says Shane intends to build a cabin soon, and we're hoping he decides to build his cabin there along Woodworth Lake Road, not at his Unabomber parcel near us. One big reason to do so is the easy availability of electricity along the road; to reach our end of the driveway, electricity proved so expensive that we opted to make our cabin be off-grid.
Using a masonry saw blade, I managed to cut the necessary voids into two sheets of Durock and then glue them to either side of the southwest corner of the cabin. Then, because it required zero cutting, I glued another sheet of Durock onto the south foundation wall as well. (All of these sheets required lots of prop sticks to hold them in place while the adhesive bonding them to the foamboard cures.) This finished the surface along fifteen feet of foundation wall enough to complete the landscaping there. This will give me a new place to dump the topsoil I am removing from farther east along the south wall. It's also important to cover up the styrofoam along the south-facing foundation wall a little more quickly than the north, east, and even west walls, since the south wall gets a lot of sun exposure, and polystyrene degrades in sunlight. It doesn't seem to degrade all that quickly (and it's not something Ibrahim seems to worry about with the still-exposed styrofoam on the foundation walls of his A-frame), but prioritizing covering the styfoam on the sunniest foundation walls seems prudent.
When I was done with that, I grabbed a boozy imperial stout and walked down to the dock. When I arrived, I could hear some men (or boys) talking over at the public dock. They weren't all that loud initially, but within a half hour it sounded like a sausage party at a frat house, suggesting that perhaps they were doing shots (how else could they get so drunk so quickly?). Meanwhile, I paddled the canoe over to near the beaver dam at the outflow and gathered a few chonky rocks off the lake floor and returned them to our dock. I then put in the effort to build a new set of steps down a steep part of the trail connecting our cabin with the dock. The place where I put these steps was only about fifty or sixty feet from the dock and was in a place where there were a lot of roots in my way. So I was forced mostly to build over them, using sand and small stones dredged from the lake bottom near the dock to "cement" the big stones in place. (There are few things I hate quite as much as the rocking beneath my weight of stones intended to be stepped upon.)
Back at the cabin, Gretchen had made linguine with pesto sauce using two different brands of linguine, one much cheaper than the other. She showed me the differences between them in terms of color (the better one was whiter and less yellow) and texture (the better one had a rougher surface, the better to hold sauce). As we loaded up our plates to eat, she suggested we take advantage of all the bandwidth we now had (after we'd run out of bandwidth and I'd had to order more) by watching a movie on Hulu. We ended up watching Hell or High Water, a bank-robbing drama set in rural Texas. It was a little testosterone-soaked for either of our tastes, but we nevertheless watched the whole damn thing.
The way I covered the drain coming from the cabin's foundation. Also note the augmentation to the massive-boulder retaining wall nearby.
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The lake was glassy this evening.
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The new set of stone steps I added to the cabin trail near the dock.
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