Covid strikes during a springtime blizzard—the poor woodcocks, robins, and Kevins, oh my

Base Camp, Bradford, Maine. Two-days post blizzard, one-week post mud season. Normal.

First, the bird-nerding: The dancing ritual of the Woodcocks

The young-growth forest at Base Camp is prime habitat for the American Woodcock. The 223-acres here have been recovering from a sloppy lumber harvest, scarring the landscape with deep ruts and leaving behind tiny trees so thick they become impassable. The combination of alternating thickets and clearings offers a unique safe place for smaller animals.

While out at dusk I heard the first woodcock call of the season. But it sounded off, higher pitched and broken. I recalled hearing about the strange dance ritual of competing male American Woodcocks from my grandmother. I heard distinct alternating peent calls from the ground in front and behind me. With the light fading, I watched their dancing silhouettes. I’ll leave the talking to the great naturalist Aldo Leopold’s “Sky Dance” essay in his classic A Sand County Almanac:

Suddenly the peenting ceases and the bird flutters skyward in a series of wide spirals, emitting a musical twitter. Up and up he goes, the spirals steeper and smaller, the twittering louder and louder, until the performer is only a speck in the sky. Then, without warning, he tumbles like a crippled plane, giving voice in a soft liquid warble that a March bluebird might envy. At a few feet from the ground he levels off and returns to his peenting ground, usually to the exact spot where the performance began, and there resumes his peenting. 

Aldo Leopold

Although I didn’t capture any photos of the Woodcocks, I did get a few fun shots of bluejays in my compost pile. I built an evergreen blind so the ravens don’t see it and the small birds feel more comfortable hanging out.

Covid strikes again

The next morning Kevin had Covid, again. He barely moved from bed for the next week. I felt sad Kevin had missed the vigorous spring display and hoped they would still be at it when he felt better. That’s when an upcoming forecasted mild snowstorm changed into 21-inches of possible accumulation. That would ensure another week of Woodcock drama for Kevin to enjoy.

The whiplash false springs is nothing new in Maine, tell that to the panic shoppers…

Kevin does things, a diverse skillset adapted to handle rustic-living responsibilities. It’s tiring to use a 20-foot snow broom to clean ice off solar panels. We needed as much in the bank as possible before the real storm came in.

Our firewood stack was meager. Kevin was in no shape to locate and cut standing dead trees and blowdowns scattered around the property. I called for backup, then reported the plan to Kevin. I knew he wouldn’t like it and would not have agreed. It’s rare I overstep or keep secrets, unless it’s for his safety—or to explain that the difference between bravery and stupidity is the outcome. I told him to “choose life” when I caught him slowly trudging through the snow for “a walk with Chip”—and a sled with a chainsaw in it trailing behind them. By the time he got back to bed (as ordered) he was out of breath and took a nap, his snoring flawlessly synchronized with a wheeze. And there he stayed for another three days. I never got sick.

The great firewood fiasco

Kevin’s brother drove over an hour to bring us dry, split wood in his questionable, overheating truck. It took three trips on the 4-wheeler over the snow-drifted field to the remote camp. Several spots were muddy, and underlain with slush. Luckily I hadn’t gotten stuck on any of my loads back—only when I was on my way to the road with the empty trailer.

I had no idea where the trail had gone and tried to guess. I ended up with my tires half underwater in a puddle of muddy slush with several inches of snow over it. Saying some words of choice, I unhooked the trailer and dragged it off to safety. After some annoyance with the inability to quickly shift reverse-to-forward to rock it out like a car, I strategically rocked with all my bodyweight (120-pounds) and crept ever so slowly out.

Luckily, smelling bullshit afoot, I’d headed up ten minutes early. And had time to clear-off and move the car. Robins circled and perched in a tree near me. The soft bare patch of ground under the car had their interest. I watched them as I waited. At least I knew where not to drive on the return trip with a heavy load. I was not interested in tossing off all the wood to pull the trailer out of another chunky puddle.

I’m not afraid to use a chainsaw, but am a novice and need more technique lessons, feedback and supervision. I knew if I got hurt, he was too sick to quickly or safely help.

Upcoming adventures on hold

I fear our exciting earthen hut building in Hawaii plan is drifting away as time drags on with the boat still unsold. We have agreed on a number for the land here in Bradford, which will also move forward as soon as the boat chapter closes. Ok, it was a fucking book.

My old friend in Hilo may be forced to start building her dome house without us as time passes. We want to leave in mid-June for Alaska with Danny in-tow, and it takes four-weeks for a boat that monumental to close.

As spring approaches, regresses, and emerges (hopefully for real), we realize the need for a larger tractor than mine. I plan to let mother nature clear the snow on and around it this week, before taking photos to list it. Tuesday through Friday this week will be warm and rainy. We need to put in a proper road, our current method of transporting supplies and visitors involves violently bumpy mud-wagon rides or getting pelleted with in ice chunks in a sled behind the snowmobile. It is a little ridiculous, and tiring. Fun for those who visit; not sustainable for those who live it. The current route gets worse and worse. This little cabin was never meant to be a home, just a little cabin to house hunters in November. Welp, here we are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *