natural world (135)

Coyotes on the Rise

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Last night, on the way “over the hill” and back, I saw 5 coyotes and 2 foxes. This guy was by side of road at about 7 this morning. It let me get within 15 feet. Not good. I believe clueless people are feeding them. Bad idea. Makes them beggars instead of hunters. Also a death sentence for some, as they get hit by cars. “A fed coyote is a dead coyote.”

As the Miwok knew, they are special.

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Night Vision Binoculars

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Foster Huntington was arriving after dark Tuesday and I texted him, got a flashlight? He texted back … got something better than a flashlight.

When he got here we walked out into the dark. He said, “Close your eyes.”

Whereupon he fitted this helmet with night vision binocs on my head and said “Open your eyes.”

The dark night was alight! 10 times as many stars. I could see a galaxy. Trees, road, paths, animals all bathed in ghostly light.

It’s like a third world: formerly I had day and night. With these you have lighted-up night. Sure, you can see at night with a flashlight, but it doesn’t light things up 360°. Also, people and animals aren’t aware that you can see them. Foster says he’s been out at night with them, and he can walk right up to rabbits.

Surfing in primo spots at night (they are waterproof, but you sure wouldn’t want to lose them); hunting for mushrooms in secret spots; mountain biking at night without visible light — possibilities are endless.

The only problem is that apparently, the good ones are really expensive.

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My Little Hut in the Woods

I live in a little Co-Housing on a farm just outside a small town in Switzerland. In Spring 2017, I sold my the little caravan that I was living in and started sleeping at the edge of the forest 200 yards from the farm, under some huge beech trees. By the end of Summer, I was feeling really at home there and decided I would make myself a home, so I could stay there in Winter.

I could already see the place for my shelter, hugging in between a small ash tree and an overgrown pile of dirt. So I started digging, using only a knife, a folding saw, and my bare hands. My inspiration was the debris hut, a shelter i know from the wilderness school.

The main structure is made of bent hazel branches, which looks like a huge streamlined basket. This a covered with jute bags, than a thick layer of pressed straw and a thick plastic lining normally used for ponds. All this is covered with dirt.

The entrance is formed by two well-chosen bent branches and around it, I closed the gap with adobe and some embedded glass bottles for light. The door was then closed by a few layers of woolen blankets.

Heat is provided by two small burners using denatured alcohol. It was warm and cosy this first winter. And even without heating, temperatures inside never fell below 7°C (44°F) inside, with -10° (14°F) outside, the warmth from the ground keeping the interior warmer.

In 2018, I added three layers of mud plastering to the inside walls. I dug the floor deeper and added a clay layer with gravel on top, covered by an earthen floor, sealed with linseed oil and wax. A small rocket mass heater now provides heating. With all the thermal mass from the mud, it now takes a little longer to heat up, but then keeps the warmth for more than a day.

The newest addition is a double-glassed door with a wooden frame perfectly fitted to the door shape, providing a lot more light inside when I use the space during the day.

All in all, the experience of building my own shelter, with not much more than my bare hands and what materials I could find in the vicinity alone was worth the effort. I think it is one of the most basic instincts of all living beings to make their own shelter, and we humans are no exception.

–Martin Fuchs

Article in Swiss newspaper (You may need to use an incognito window to get past the web block.)

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