Winter Work In The Wilderness Still Awaits

by Curt Kovener curt-line.jpg

I was looking forward to the recent below freezing temperatures. Last summer I noticed some boards loose on the dock in the lake at the wilderness retreat. An inspection revealed some of the 25-year-old support boards were rotting and their structural integrity were suspect. Since some of our visitors are “big boned” people, replacing the dock was moved up the priority list.

Doing construction from a boat would be difficult and tedious. And unlike some of my Baptist friends, I know I can’t walk on water. Which I why I decided the first extended cold spell where a safe coating of ice was on the lake would find me in insulated boots and coveralls re-docking.

Last Wednesday I was successful de-decking the dock. Only perhaps a dozen screws still had any holding power. The rest had rusted through and broke at the first twist of the drill gun. The deck boards were ones I installed about 10 years ago and are in good enough shape to re-use. But their removal made me really wonder what was keeping the wilderness visitors from an unexpected plunge in the pond.

New treated lumber and the unexpected but very welcomed assistance of my brother and his brother-in-law allowed us to get the entire support structure demolished and re-installed in one afternoon.

After two days in the upper 50’s, and after an upper 20’s Friday night, Saturday was a bright, sunny day which made for more pleasant working conditions. But by mid-afternoon, the sun had left about a half-inch of water on top of the ice right where we were walking and working.

I learned that the occasional hollow sounding ‘ping’ heard across the lake was the sun stressing the ice and not something to really worry about. Which is something easy to say now that I am sitting in a chair on dry land. It was more difficult to convince myself of that when I knew there was 12-feet of pretty durned cold water about six inches below my feet.

The water on slick ice made traction and torque for construction a challenge.

As is usual with my construction projects, I ran out of material and had to wait until a trip into town to get more screws. I was 12 short.

So we retired to the house to warm up. A cup of tea hit the spot as I relaxed in the recliner. It wasn’t too long that Miz Mary, Charley and Me were all snoring with a late-afternoon nap.

When I awoke it was still light out but the sun had dropped below the western tree line. Going out to lock up I noted that absent the solar warming, the half inch of water where we worked had already begun to re-freeze with a crust of ice.

After a trip from town the next day the dock support re-construction was complete. Though temperatures were in the teens, there was some more work to accomplish.

Multiflora roses and green briar have been encroaching on lawn edges and walk ways. Winter is a good time to cut those pesky prickeries. Putting the saw blade on the versatile string trimmer, I set about to do some clearing.

The cutting was labor intensive as I had to get the spinning, cutting, business end of the machine down near the ground where the rose briars were more than an inch in diameter. Then after it cut I had to extract the cutter and myself while the curved stickers made one last effort inflict some damage on me. All of the insulated clothing protected my skin from any blood letting.

But the cold temperature, numb fingers, and a mustache catching and allowing to freeze the product of a cold weather induced runny nose (that is a polite way to describe it) prompted me to give up my battle with the prickly vegetation.

The dam sumacs and briars, or more precisely said the unneeded vegetation growing on the sloped bank of the dam will have to wait until the most recent snow melts

Tomorrow will be another day, as my dad would say.