forest dweller · homesteading · preparedness · self-reliance

Hide-behinds and the Long Winters Night

Creatures of the long silent night. . .

Many years ago, the young and adventurous me, discovered a 40 acre parcel of heavily forested property which none of the locals even knew was for sale, smack dab in the middle of a state forest. Deep in the middle of  this secluded 40 acre parcel  in the wild’s of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula stood a 20’X20′ tar papered shanty I was about to call home. It took every penny I had to buy the property that had unknowingly been up for sale for more than 15 years. I was beside myself with excitement! I was 43.

The cabin/now shanty was built as a hunting camp in 1963 using real saw milled 2X4’s. Sturdy, well built, no electricity or water as there were no power lines out there in the early days. It was dirty, run down and ghost like from all the years of no human intervention. However, a local population of mice and raccoons had made a claim to it over the years, moving in their own families. And really large, gray wart covered wolf spiders inhabited every crack and corner of the tiny, lovable little cabin nestled in amongst the over growth of trees and flora. These guys were the biggest, most horrifying eight legged creatures I had ever witnessed!

I was anxious to get started and arrived early on the day after I had taken procession of my new home. There were no keys handed to me at the time of signing at the bank.  Even the realtor was unaware of the shack on the property. Gus, my yellow lab took off to explore his new environment and was no help what so ever helping to unload the boxes of cleaning supplies, hammer, nails, crowbar and a shovel I figured it would take to make this place near as livable as possible. It took me most of that summer to fix up what was to be the most memorable 20 year adventure of my life.

By now it is late fall. My first night alone out here in the woods, in my now cleaned one room shanty found me laying in my bed with my blanket pulled up to my chin with one hand and a flashlight gripped tightly in the other. Listening to the night time parade of mice playing tag in the ceiling and walls, my thoughts turned to; “What the hell am I doing out here 30 miles from town,  in the middle of this 1000’s  of acres of woods? All alone! Was I nuts?”

“OMG! What’s that noise? Listen, there it is again!”

It sounded like something was actually chewing on my cabin.  Sometime during the night I did doze off but only briefly. A thunderstorm demanded that I not get too comfortable. Loud claps and bright lightening fueled my anxiety of this precarious first night in the woods. Then suddenly as a lightening bolt lit up the room, there on the ceiling was a monstrous, wart covered wolf spider the size of my hand, hurriedly making his way in my direction. . .

To make a long story short and the purpose of this post, when the power is out it is quiet! I will be the first to tell you that the constant buzz of human activity, electronic gadgets, cell phones and all sorts of technology along with traffic noise and streetlights are so natural to the every day guy and gal that we just don’t notice the noise, that is, until it is gone. When the electrical plug has been pulled and the power goes out the first sense is that of ahhhhhhh. It actually feels good.  (Personally, I miss my days and nights living unattached to the power grid and even today, going into town seems so loud.)  It doesn’t take long, however, before you begin to feel withdrawal symptoms, much like that of a cigarette withdrawal. Then night comes, the stillness of the true lightless night becomes the monster in the closet of our childhood.

My first long winter night played games with the stillness of my snow covered wilderness. I suddenly became acutely aware that the moon light uses shadows as an accomplice; it tricks the imagination into seeing beasts stalking the darkness. A wise older man I knew called them hide-behinds. Elusive mystical creatures without true form, created purely from ones own imagination, hiding behind leafless hardwoods, he liked to say.  I remembered his words one night  as I sat reading quietly by oil lamp,  the muted flickering of the yellow flame demanded entrance into the playful party of dancing shadows. At that moment, as I look up from my reading, the icy stillness crept up and stole away with my struggling confidence. A mythical hide-behind ran an icy finger up my spine.

Twenty years have now come and gone since my first night time encounter with the night time hide-behinds deep in my forest. My tiny cabin has given way to a fit a proper homestead and a husband. The moral of this story you may have guessed is that when the lights go out, and they will, it is the quiet people will surrender to. More often that not, even before the lack of food sets in. Humans have adapted to noise, to the hustle of activity and having every desirable electronic device at their finger tips. You can and should prepare for as many physical aspects of the coming take down of the U.S. as possible. But will you be able to survive the quiet? It is truly a possibility that needs to be understood.

History has recorded that silence created a debilitating  madness in the unprepared pioneer women  during the 1800’s westward movement.  Women whose husband had settled them in the prairies of the western U.S. and were left alone for a long periods time often went mad due to the silence. Their only companion was the never ending wind, the mournful song of the elusive wolf and the fear of an Indian raid. Returning husbands sometimes found their wives, if the were lucky, wandering the open prairie looking for another human neighbor.

 

 

forest dweller · homesteading

And so it begins. . .

Comes a time when we get older and working for *the man* ends and working for yourself begins. That is where I am at now. We did the 9 to 5 thing and drove 30 miles one way everyday to a job all the while putting this homestead together. So you could say, we have been walking the walk for over 20 years. I could never have imagined or even realized there was such an interest in living in the woods.
People would come to our little shanty in da woods for a nosy visit or to buy veggies and fall in love with our lifestyle. Usually these folks were tourists or seasonal campers just enjoying the great outdoors for a week or two.

“I wish I could do what you are doing” they proclaimed with great enthusiasm.        Camp 1995 009

That was, of course, before I explained my day to them. It’s hard work, period!!

“Oh, I don’t think, no, I know I could never get used to using an outhouse or composting toilet or whatever it is that you people use. No, I just couldn’t give up my stuff.”

Yeah well, in the beginning we used the outhouse but we have nice stuff now. It is just the thought of giving up stuff that these nice folks seemed to have trouble with. You see, living out here in the boonies ain’t so bad. It is that you have got to plan ahead. You could say I have one foot in the old ways and one foot in a limited tech world. Balance, it’s all about balance.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has some of the worst climate for gardening. We can get cloud cover for 3 full months at a time. November, December and January, by the time February rolls around we will begin to see some blue skies and sun sporadically. This winter was slightly better with some sunshine, but the cold seems relentlessly hanging on. Gardening and wild food gathering has been a massive learning experience due to the climate up here. The old timers would tell you not to plant anything before the first full moon in June. Well, I tried that once. The first full moon fell on June 18th and it frosted September 22 that year. Didn’t get much of a crop.

I guess my point to all this is, if you want helpful, tested and researched advice you have come to the right place. I am really interested in others homesteading methods and information also. I believe that many hands make light the work and we are all in this together.