Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cabin Life: Tracks in the Snow

Every morning there are tracks in my driveway.  Sometimes they’re deer tracks, or the random dog that occasionally wanders through, or like this morning, they’re fox tracks.    With only a dusting of snow on the ground, I’m not sure why different animals seem to frequent the driveway, but I almost always stop on my way to work to see who had come through the night before.

I do mean a dusting too.  The lack of snow is great for getting things done outside, but obviously horrible for skiing.  Last week we got about six inches.  I got the plow hooked up to the four-wheeler and, miraculously, got it started.  I plowed the snow off the driveway just to practice with the new set up.  By Monday afternoon, the only place there was snow was where I had made snowbanks.  Good thing I didn’t actually break my finger putting the plow on.  It really felt broken when I slammed it.

Monday afternoon, I decided to take the four-wheeler again and use it to drag a tree out of the woods.  Now, this four-wheeler and I have a sort of love-hate relationship.  I hate it and it loves to not start or go in reverse.  On the occasions when it is running, I use it for two main purposes:  to drag next year’s fire wood to the cabin and to ride around on the trails for no particular reason.  I’d like to say that Pico goes with me, but he’s always trying to bite the tires, which can’t possibly end well, so he stays at the cabin.

During Hurricane Sandy, a large tree snapped in half way up at the end of the Left Trail.  My friend who owns the property doesn’t want me cutting live trees, so I’m constantly on the lookout for good dead stuff.  Good or bad, it was also a poplar.  Not the greatest fire wood, but it burns clean and since it’s free and there’s a ton of it, who cares if it burns faster than hardwood?

The tree had broken pretty cleanly about thirty feet up the trunk.  After I dropped the rest of the trunk and limbed it and pulled out the parts that are big enough to burn, I probably have about a cord and a half of wood just from this one tree.  I cut eight foot logs (give or take) and ended up with seven of them.

Now, back to the four-wheeler.  It does not go in reverse.  It came with the property, and no one seems to have any idea when it was last serviced or repaired.  So, I just have to deal with it.  Typically, I only drive it where I can turn around, otherwise I have to get off and push it back to wherever I need it.  This is not a good set up when you are on a hill.  Luckily the big poplar wasn’t on a hill, but it also wasn’t in a place where I could drive in and turn around.  So I ended up having to drag the logs to the four-wheeler because I couldn’t push it back far enough to hook them up.

The first couple of logs from the top of the tree weren’t that heavy, so I could move them whole.  The logs from the base of the tree, where it was about twenty inches in diameter, were much heavier.  I grabbed the chainsaw and cut the eight foot logs into four foot logs.  I couldn’t lift them whole, but I could flip them end over end the twenty feet or so to the four-wheeler.

The first fat and short log I grabbed was the heaviest.  I got it to the back end of the four-wheeler and wrapped a strap around it several times.  I hooked the strap to the trailer hitch and made it all of one foot before the strap came off.  This log did not want to go anywhere.  I did a different rig to hook the log to the trailer hitch.  Made it about ten feet before the strap broke.  Not really having any other options, I flipped the log up against the real cargo rack and slid it up onto the rack.  I strapped it down with my severely shortened tie-down and drove it back to the cabin yard.  When I shoved the thing off, the back end of the four-wheeler went up about three inches.  It was a heavy log.

I had to do that six more times to get all that fire wood down to the cabin yard.  That wood may be free, but I’m paying for it now.

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.

4 Responses

  1. Butch says:


    I enjoy your writings very much. It sounds like a great way to be living. As for that wheeler, I don’t know the brand or model, but check for a small cable off the foot brake. Most use an interlock to make sure you stop before shifting to reverse. If it’s not adjusted properly, no reverse. The starting sounds like a carb cleaning and new spark plug.
    I look forward to each installment to your blog.

  2. Paul says:

    They had a guy on “car talk” call in with a car that would not go into reverse. They told him to move to a house with a circular driveway!

  3. Gerald says:

    I know this sounds radical but have you considered taking it to a repair shop somewhere and bartering for a repair?

  4. John says:

    I had a dog that would bark at my 4 wheeler and bite at the tires. One day in frustration I jumped off the bike and put her on the back. She was my plowing partner for a long time. Worth a try with Pico.

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