Friday, November 21, 2008

Conversation with John

Hey there. No photos this time, just wanted to reflect on a couple of conversations I had with John Di Fruschia, our friend and the general contractor for the common building, today. He's also part native and has spent years living in nature, and is going to facilitate the construction of a wigwam for me next spring. Today we walked to a couple of potential wigwam sites. The first one borders forest near Quartz Creek, near our farm fields but set back, pretty far away from the road. The second one is above the new pond, in and around a young oak orchard on a hill. I've been scouting out potential places to live, based on a few criteria that John gave me a couple of months ago, and these were two of the places I thought might work.

It turns out the second site is lousy for a wigwam -- it's too exposed to the elements and will be baking hot in the summer, as well as very windy. The first site was really the best, and had a good feel to it. It's protected from weather, gets a good amount of sun but in the summer is protected from the late afternoon sun, which is the harshest/hottest. There were only a couple drawbacks: 1) in the winter, the sun probably wouldn't hit the site until 10:30, so mornings would be cold then; and 2), there are a lot of animal trails around, which means my presence would have an impact on the wildlife there. But that impact would probably happen, to some extent, anywhere I pitched a wigwam. As for the lateness of the morning sun, well, that's a bit of a bummer, but any place is gonna have some cons. And I'm probably not gonna hang out there beyong 7 or 8 am most mornings anyway. I'm gonna go out there in mid-December, on one of the shortest days of the year, and check out what time the sun does come up.

The Quartz Creek spot was great. We both felt good and relaxed, and ended up having a conversation about many things. I could imagine having many real conversations there, and many times to just sit, watch and listen, be. One of the things I took away from our talk was John's sense of nature. He spoke about the Western view of nature, which sees nature as a resource and is about understanding why it works the way it does with the goal of extracting these so-called resources. And then he spoke of the indigenous view, which honors nature. I felt content and at ease, and somehow I knew what he meant.

We were looking straight ahead, quietly for a moment, and he said, "I like that stump over there," indicating a tree stump 25 yards in front of us. "You'll probably see foxes hanging out on there. I bet there's some fox shit there right now." As we were leaving he pointed out some bear hair, caught in a barbed wire fence nearby, and we looked at deer and coyote tracks (coyote tracks differ from fox's in that you can see claw marks -- little holes in the ground above the footpads). I felt overwhelmed at times by the amount I don't know about the natural world that I live in, but also very grateful to have spent time with this honorable, wise and kind man who shared a little of his experience, and to have taken the time to just sit with him and enjoy a peaceful spot together.

That's the main thing I wanted to say. I'm gonna write some more here, and for anyone interested in this stuff please read on, but I gotta write it down now before I forget it.

...other interesting things about wigwam living that I learned....I had asked John earlier about how smoky it would get in there when burning wood for heat. There are many factors that can lead to smokiness, and I would be able to have a lot of control over this factor. For one thing, the type of wood is crucial. Around here, the best wood is madrone, which doesn't have a lot of sap (burning sap makes smoke) and is very compressed wood. His suggestion, which I would like to do, is to go out in the woods this December, when the sap is at its lowest, and cut a bunch of madrone, then let it cure for a year; then next year it will be very dry and ready to burn. I believe madrone also makes better embers that burn longer and continue heating the wigwam after I'm asleep and can't tend the fire. The height of the wigwam is a factor too; the larger it is, the more the smoke will hang around. Also the size of a fire -- in a small, properly insulated wigwam, your fire only needs to be about a foot or a foot and a half in diameter to heat the whole structure, so there isn't much smoke coming out of a fire like that. John quoted a native saying, which was that white people build big fires and have to sit very far away because it's so hot. native people build small fires, which take less fuel and in a wigwam that is low to the ground it doesn't take much to heat it. Finally, he suggested putting a pipe or a tunnel that runs underground from the base of the firepit to the outside, and acts to draw air into the wigwam, adding oxygen to the fire and helping move any smoke from below out of the top of the structure. He told me that it's possible to make a smokeless fire that puts out a lot of heat. I have so much to learn, and I'm excited about that. He mentioned some other fire tidbits, like building a small wall of stones on the other side of the firepit from where I sleep, so that heat would reflect from the stones over to my bed and keep me warmer. Also having an oval-shaped pit, building a fire in one half and then shoving some of the coals to the other side where I could use them to heat water for tea or something. Or heating up a stone or piece of cast iron and cooking on that.

A piece of good news that I learned is that it's not illegal to live a wigwam. I had thought I couldn't get a permit for it, and that this would be a potential problem. But it turns out that one doesn't need permits to build structures that aren't physically attached to the land (i.e. have a foundation). So things like yurts, buses and wigwams are just fine to dwell in.

Omigod, I'm exhausted. Maybe I'll write more later. I took a few more good shots of the common building, and maybe I'll go over and shoot the potential wigwam spot tomorrow, then post the lot, but for now I'm saying goodnight.


MUD said...

Spent the entire year of 1968 camping in Vietnam and have no desire to do it again. Loved it earlier in my life but I just would camp out on the couch in that beautiful home. My real desire is to have a structure with a turret on top with a couch there to sleep on. Sometime. MUD

helen said...

Hi Danny
Great meeting you at Trillium.
I lived in a teepee in Canada for a year.
Loved it.
Would like a tour of your place sometime.
May be next Friday?
326 1674