So in addition to the usual smattering of tree climbing, compost turning, chicken caretaking, and wood chopping, the past few weeks I’ve done some pretty awesome things outside:
- I tried blacksmithing for the first time
- I practiced archery
- I helped my brother and dad set up a zipline
- I helped set up The Big Zipline (which makes the first one look like a prototype)
Maybe I’ll just go down the list.
A few weeks ago I spent a Friday in the woods with my friends and an awesome teacher named Bodo. The whole day was gorgeous- from the drive up the coast, past dramatic cliffs dropping into the blue, blue ocean, to the dappled redwood groves, to the flying sparks of our fire and forge. We all met up on a small road in the hills, surrounded by dry grass and free roaming cows, where we all piled into Bodo’s truck (I sat with the arrows in the back) and bounced down the dusty dirt road into the forest. The first thing we did was light a fire to make coals for the forge later.
Everywhere I looked was so beautiful, even while I was shooting a bow my fingers itched for my camera. The graceful yet powerful curves of the bows, like huntresses, lined up to shoot. The homemade arrows- splashes of jewel tones among the green and brown woods. The hand painted hay bale and burlap target, coaxing the projectiles to accuracy as they flew through the air. Not to mention Bodo himself- with his big leather vest, small spectacles, weathered face and hands, and smiling eyes. He seemed like a character out of a fantasy as he spun out stories of archers in battles long ago, their training, their battle strategy, the size, weight, materials of their bows. The multiple uses for them, the pros and cons of armor and horses- so much knowledge and skill. Although I’m a beginning archer at best, and I just used a fifteen pound bow (really light), I didn’t feel silly or stupid, just excited about the experience, which I really appreciated.
Once our fire burned down enough to have significant coals, we lit up the forge and kept it going by repeatedly filling and emptying the carefully hand made bellows, a task that looks much simpler than it really is. We put our rods of steel at the mouth of the forge (which is shaped like the head of a boar) until they were cherry red, at which point we carefully removed them with our tongs and proceeded to shape them on the anvil until the metal cooled and had to be returned to the heat. Although we were outside in the redwoods, the heat coming off the forge and fire were still significant. It’s a very rhythmic process. Thump whoosh, thump whoosh go the bellows (interrupted only by the occasional yelp of surprise at a spark gone awry), the mallet sings on the anvil, and the rhythm of the process ties it all together- heat, shape, heat, shape, heat, shape… Not to mention the singing (chanting?) that started by the fire and continued as we bumped back down through the dust and trees and out into the rolling fields:
“Right, right, right for my country whoopdedo! Left, left, left my wife and 48 kids on the brink of starvation without any gingerbread did I do right? Right, right for my country whoopdedo!…..” and
“Always look on the bright side of life, do do, do do do do do do. Always look on the bright side of life…” which seemed especially appropriate seeing as we were all dirty but happy. (And some of my friends are excellent whistlers).
The second adventure, as I mentioned before, began with a zipline *now* known as The Prototype, which was very exciting at the time (although it’s still fun). So exciting in fact, that my dad and brother decided they needed to make a larger scale version. Long story short (since this is getting to be a long post), there is now an even more exciting, 170 ft long zipline across the valley next to our house. It was definitely an “If you give a mouse a cookie…” project, because once we realized how high it was we had to go get a harness, and then we had to build a starting platform, and then we thought we should tighten it further which involved getting a “Harvin’s Pull” or something… you get the picture.
In conclusion, I’ve been having some a fantastic time in the woods.