Rick's Journal

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Timberframing: Strong, Sustainable, Longlasting and fun to build!

As I am sure you probably already know, I have been doing a lot of timberframing lately. We started building cabin frames about eleven years ago, and made a few as part of our workshops in framing. Simon Mayer, Chris Marx and a few other staff members carved wooden pegs by the boxload one winter, selling them to other timber framers for food money. There were mounds of shavings all over the farmhouse floor. (Once you have made a few hundred pegs yourself, you really don't get the same thrill at making pegs, frame after frame! Buying them isn't always a bad idea!)

Anyway, learning to cut frames has been really important here at Hawk Circle. Not only have we used it for our garden shed, our staff cabins and three student/camper cabins, we have also built our bridge using framing techniques, and lately, cutting frames for people who have wanted one for themselves or their families. This has helped support our Earth Skills Apprenticeship, and our camp scholarship fund, too, by providing income to offset housing/utilities and all kinds of different expenses that come up at a wilderness education program. Plus, it gives us more wood for carving, making bunkbeds, cabins and other framing projects that really help teach the art of framing to our students.

We put our first set of bunkbeds up this summer, with a lot of help in the making of them from many caretakers and Abigail Liss, who carved almost a full set by herself in the three weeks she was here last summer. There were lots of students making pegs and helping out in a lot of different ways.

Lately, the Apprentices are making their own timber framed beds, for the farmhouse, so we can get the mattresses off the floor in some rooms, and replace some shaky old frames on others... Joel, Virginia and Miles are doing great work and the beds are coming out great!

Timberframe structures are amazingly sturdy. They are cut from local wood, so they are super sustainable, and they are made using very little power, as we cut and shape them with mostly hand tools. They bring a community together in the raising, and the buildings are more than just an amalgam of wood and shingles. They are a home, be it for animals, or artists, or a family.

The barn here at Hawk Circle is full of beams, shavings, sawdust and finished braces and posts. It feels good to be in there, with our great view out the barn doors looking down the valley, listening to some good music, and cutting massive wood.

Framing is hard on the body, though. I go home tired, sore and ready for bed. Elbows, shoulders and back muscles get used a lot in sawing, chiseling or lifting. It is definitely not something that I can do every day, day in and day out. It helps to take a day here and there to teach skills, mow the lawn or gather hickory nuts!

Last weekend we raised a frame in the southern Adirondacks, well, actually, it was the base of the frame as the structure is being built on the side of a hill. We were just making the first level, so we can put up the full frame/roof on top of the deck. It was great to see it come together without a hitch, and it felt immensely satisfying to see the heavy oak beams pegged together, solid and strong.

We are cutting the rest of the frame now. Much of it is white pine, so after the white oak, it is almost like cutting the frame out of a stick of butter. Seriously! The white oak builds up some serious strength and muscle, which makes it great to work with pine.

I love cutting frames. It is awesome working with wood and it is great sharing it with others, both in teaching and in building. I like it because, honestly, after nearly twenty five years of teaching wilderness skills, it is great to be doing something different. It is great to take one beam at a time, and see my work done at the end of the day, there, stacked neatly and ready for some future assembly. It is great to just experience a change, in some ways. It also keeps me strong, as I need to be able to lift my son, Javier about four or five times each day. And it is cheaper than going to the gym!

Don't get me wrong. I still love teaching wilderness skills, and I do it almost every day. But it is really nice to cut wood and be part of this other skill, and learn new things, too.

If you get a chance, come to the raising of the full cabin in a few weeks. I would love to have your help, plus it is an amazing experience to see it all come together... If you want to be part of it, let me know. And if you are in the area and you want to come check out our frames and our workshop, please do.

Okay, back to work....

And if you are interested in having us make a frame for you or your family, either as an addition, or as a barn or retreat cabin or whatever, give us a call. I would be happy to talk to you about your project!

Enjoy the fall!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coming Up: The Sacred Hunt and Wolverine Survival...

Two weekends. Two workshops. Two experiences that will change the way you see the natural world.

This fall, we are offering The Sacred Hunt: October 16-18, 2009. It is more than a simple hunting skills class. It's about learning to hunt in an honorable way, in a way that is connected to the heart, to the soul, not only of you but to the deer, and nature itself.

Hunting is a culmination of need, awareness, tracking and being human. It is part of us, our thousands of years of living close to the land. It isn't something that I take lightly, and it is far more than simply attempting to kill an animal.

Hunting provides food for our families, hides for our clothing, all kinds of tools and a way of challenging our skills to the very limit. It provides me with a bridge to the spirit and the sure knowledge that we all live and we all offer our lives as a gift to the earth, to the spirit that moves in all things, to the people, and to our families. We offer ourselves to the people we love.

Wolverine Survival
October 30-November 1, 2009.

The wolverine brings up all kinds of different feelings in people. In the old days, trappers hated wolverines, calling them gluttons, raiders that followed their traplines, taking their marten and foxes and fouling the area with a rank musky stench.

To the native people, wolverines offer a model of warriorship, of ferocity, of unbridled intensity that matched the massive grizzly, or a full pack of wolves. They can travel the most remote wilderness areas with ease, preferring to climb over a glacier or mountain pass than go around it. Their fur stays frost free even down to -50ºF and they sleep pretty much anywhere they please. Wolverines were the model for fighting spirit, for tenacity and power.

Modern science has found wolverines to be caring parents, and not always living up the ferocious loners portrayed in comic mythos.

In this course, we study the skills of survival that are necessary to living close to the earth, providing ways of making shelters, fire, tools, hunting weapons and utensils. We will learn to walk with awareness, hear more, see more and understand more about the natural world, where you will view the natural landscape as your ally and friend.

We have great discounts, great food, great cabins and you will never see the natural world the same way again.

Actually, I already said that!

Anyway, hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Inspiration: The Ongoing Battle Continues

It's easy to get inspired. I mean, anyone can catch the inspiration bug, by reading something, or watching something or hearing someone share a story.

It's staying inspired that is tough.

Inspiration is a tricky thing, because it is elusive. It can evaporate in the face of reality. In the presence of the health department, or a board of directors, or a financial statement, it might hit the trail, or leave you with a rock in your stomach, your tongue in knots. It can sometimes make you wish you had never been inspired!

I am not saying this because I am down on inspiration. Far from it! I am saying this because it is important and it is a reality. For every inspired person that attempts to learn to make a fire, or a bow or to track animals, there must be close to ten who never get off of the couch, or go outside.

On the other hand, inspiration gets us going, and keeps us going when the chips are down. It touches us deep in our souls, in our heart's desire.

I have written about how I started Hawk Circle, our origin story and more, in previous blog entries, but when I saw this video, I really liked it. It arrived typically, in a moment where I really needed a boost, and it touched me. It is so simple, so short, but it was effective in reaching that part of me that is connected to my vision and mission. I won't spoil or paraphrase it to let you enjoy it's full impact, and you might not even be touched by it. It doesn't matter. We all have our own ways of connecting.

But it made me remember that it takes constant effort, year after year after year, day after day, to keep going. Because it is tiring to walk a vision, to push and work and think and plan.

Doing Hawk Circle is full time, every second of every day, it seems, sometimes. For Trista, for myself, for our staff and friends and supporters. We are constantly seeking and finding new ways of doing this work to try to make it better, to reach people, to grow in impact, if not in numbers, and to grow it the right way, whatever that is. We also find ourselves searching for our own inner strength, to keep going.

It helps to remember that we are doing this for love, for the children in the photo, to give them the skills they need to survive whatever might come down the road for them.

We are doing these things for love of nature, to help the people of the world be more connected it it, to share it in such a way that they feel close to it and understand it, and can help all life here on this earth.

We do it for our families, our communities and for ourselves....

I wish you the best in your daily search for inspiration! One step at a time....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Difference between "When" and "If"

This world is beginning to accelerate in ways that go beyond our control. They may already have years ago, but our ability to understand this is still in infancy. However, there is little doubt among scientists and educated peoples across the globe that we are seeing the last shreds of stability on a planetary scale, and that the future is highly uncertain.

The whole issue of 'if climate change occurs' is moot. It's now a question of 'when' and 'how much'.

At Hawk Circle, we are beginning to make a change in our approach to teaching wilderness leadership, survival skills and awareness. For the last twenty years, we have tried to avoid any philosophical tones that might be construed as alarmist, fear based or manipulative, for obvious reasons. Most students are simply unable to do anything about it, for one thing. The other is that it was uncertain that the 'worst' was yet to come, so to speak.

Starting in 2010, our approach is going to be one of trust, love, compassion, and highly practical in nature, one that features skills that will be crucial and necessary in the coming years. We also will begin to talk openly about the changes and what these might look like and how to observe and respond to them in a way that can provide the optimal outcomes for our students and their families.

We aren't talking about packing up three years of food in the basement, or getting firearms and ammunition. We aren't talking about heading out to live in a bunker in Idaho, or herding fifty goats in Wisconsin. No, no and no! (If you are into that sort of thing, go for it, but we aren't advising that!)

We are going to begin talking about these changes and these skills in a 'when' conversation, rather than a hypothetical 'if'.

I don't like doing this, but I can't see any other way that has integerity. I also think that young people do 'get it' as to what is going on with climate change and the very real threat to our world as we know it, and it will probably be refreshing to be able to talk about it directly, rather than skirt around it or pretend it isn't happening.

I don't claim to know the future but I can sure take a look at the present and make some simple predictions and know that things are about to get a lot crazier in the coming ten to twenty to thirty years!

I welcome your feedback and would love to hear what you think about this approach and if you agree or disagree.