Gutting A Camper

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First photographer of the region with his dog and cabin.

It seems like we are up to our necks these days in black bears.  When we first moved onto this farm twenty years ago it had been deserted for over thirty years.  Two dirt ruts led into a farm yard that had been reclaimed by the jungle of bush that surrounded it.  Bears are common in the region and being backed up onto very rugged Crown Land we often had visits from bruins, even on our front porch.  But what could you expect?  They and several generations of them had walked freely and now we were the invaders.  Over time they abated (for years we were invaded by dozens of skunks whom we had displaced).  But the continued transfer of bush into farm land here continues unabated and with fewer hidden places bears are more common this year than ever.  They are a reminder that at its core we are a part of the natural world and not vice versa.  They are also a reminder that nature here is on the run.  When we first came to this valley forty years ago it was heavily in bush.  Herds of elk could be encountered anywhere and at any time.  But not today.  Much of that land had been bulldozed and tilled.  The main part of the valley looks like the Great Plains which start just to the west of us.  We are still parkland, mixed forest and field.  And our immediate geography  is just rough enough that ravines and waterways will not allow the same transformation that has happened just to the east, thank God.  And our twenty acre woods is rocky enough that it will never lend itself easily to a cultivator.  And all of that is fine with us.  We are not only tolerant but even grateful for bears and other large game animals that find their way here, mostly on their way to some place else, even if those places are harder and harder for them to find.  Only a few miles to the north, and within sight from our front porch, we can see the north, a place where if you start walking to the pole you would only cut three paved highways.  And it is my impression that the young generation here prefers to stay in town on their electronic gadgets during hunting season, unlike the press of hunters we knew forty years ago, so that puts fewer animals on the run.  And local outfitters seem to take their clients into the large tracts of forest to the north and south of us nowadays.  No, in the past week we have seen two black bears, a coyote, and a white-tailed deer all at very close range, and no sows with cubs which is always a relief.  These bears are mostly displaced adolescent males who always take it on the chin from older, larger bears and who are forced onto more marginal land for their survival, like this farm, which can create problems, but so far so good.  Two friends over the past decades have had bears literally claw their ways into their homes and were shot in the process of doing so.  But by-and-large given the number of bears and given the number of encounters between bears and people this is extremely rare.  And for now we are just grateful to be here and have them show up from time to time.  So far, so good and as wild food begins to ripen they will undoubtedly be less and less apparent as they remain in heavier cover.

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Many years ago a friend of mine offered me a camper.  Severely in need of repair and restoration I brought it home and it has sat here alongside of a dozen other projects waiting its turn.  For the past two days I have been gutting it.  No need for its dated technology I have removed all wires and pipes and appliances and cabinets, opening it up for a larger living space and solar panels and LED lighting.  With a damaged roof it had been fitted with a tin superstructure; this I disassembled.  It was a chore to do so by myself in high winds but I got it done.  Now to scrub it down, install new sub-flooring, panel the side walls and paint both interior and exterior, along with the replacing of its axles.  It is coming along well.

It offered up: three nice sixteen foot sheets of white aluminum roofing, a pile of rough sawn lumber, two premium water tanks, and a hefty power transformer which I will be able to use to charge batteries and convert 120V AC to 12.5V DC in my shop.  Nice, all along with a transformed and very usable vintage camper to boot, and for a song.

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There is a tradeoff in life.  That rather than thinking that somehow new technologies will make life as humans better, camping should be about simpler, more native ways of being, like cooking over a fire and burning candles for light.  And we still use a tent, unlike everyone else in the camp ground.  But this can be for special use.  We like recycling in this way.