People often ask me whether I get bored up here. They ask me what I do, as if I need to do anything to pass time in the woods. Next time someone asks me that, I’ll explain it this way: Imagine watching the Discovery channel or Nature channel. Except it’s in super ultra realistic HD. And it’s in 3D. And it’s all around you. And, it’s like a video game, in that you can move around, and look at different things. That’s what it’s like, but more awesome.
The reality is, most people my generation don’t seem to have ever experienced the woods. Yes, many of them go hiking. I’ve gone hiking with them. But hiking in the woods, on trails, is completely different to experiencing the woods. When my friends go hiking, they walk pretty fast, and they talk most of the time, without really paying attention to what’s around them. Covering ground and socializing seem to take priority. But you actually can’t see much when you’re walking and talking. All the noise will scare off wild life, and most of the interesting things in the woods happen at such a micro scale, that you simply will miss it if you are walking.
When I’m up here, I spend most of my time within fifty yards of my hut. That area basically covers my entire camp, including my solar panels, my garden, and my cargo trailer. And let me tell you, there is so much to experience even in just that 50 yard radius. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I watched entranced as a few ants dragged a caterpillar, still alive, across my garden bed. It was an epic struggle. The caterpillar would wriggle and writhe and hook its stubby little legs onto anything it could, but it was no match for ants a tiny fraction of its size. Just in the time I was watching them, the ants had dragged the caterpillar about 6ft down my garden.
Just a few minutes ago, I came across some interesting night life going on on a young pine tree. The tips of some of the branches were covered in little tiny insects, little brown mites, and swarming above and around these mites were a bunch of huge ants. In comparison to the mites, these ants were giants, and they were busily feeling about with their antlers. They weren’t attacking the mites, but it looked like they might be collecting mite poop or something, though it was all too small to see clearly what was going on.
And those are just a couple of examples. I can remember one time when I was sitting in my chair, and a humming bird came and hovered an arm’s length away. A couple of days ago, I saw a big fat lizard acting all weird, then found it dead later in the evening, just outside my hut. Yesterday, Skippy the Squirrel came and sat on his tree near my hut, looking all adorable (I’m glad he survived the winter). Later in the day, I found a dead fox, legs all curled, as if it had died while running. Earlier today, I noticed drag marks in the dirt right near my car, with squirrel tracks, and what might’ve been fox prints. Around dinner time, I found out that the tender stems of wheat grass can be quite tasty (though, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to eat them). In the past I’ve photographed interesting plant phenomena, as well as all the pretty wildflowers, of which there seems to be a new type blooming every week. And of course, I check on the sprouting seedlings in my garden several times a day, and every time I look, I spot a new sprout breaking the surface.
Then there are projects. Right now, I’ve got lumber to build a nice big worktable. I also need to make a couple of planter boxes and sow more seeds. There’s also this solar water distiller that I want to try and make to recycle gray water. My hammock could use some shade over it. Of course, there’s the hut extension to think about.
If that’s not enough, there are always chores and life tasks to perform. My solar panels need to be reoriented several times a day. I need to think about what to eat, and prepare my meals. I need to put my solar shower out, then take a shower before it cools. I need to move water from my 7 gallon carriers into the 55 gallon drum. The garden needs to be watered, and before dark, my headlamp batteries need to be charged.
Then the sun sets, turning the sky into a magical gradient of orange and blue and violet. The stars come out, more of them than you’ll ever see in the city. Up here, you can see satellites zipping across the sky. I brush my teeth, lock everything up, and turn in for the night. I read in bed for an hour or two. Then, I’ll go to sleep, knowing that tomorrow morning, when I step out the door, I’ll be stepping into the most amazing museum in the world, with a brand new exhibit, and a surprise or two.