This past weekend my son and I went to our place in New Hampshire, and enjoyed a mostly internet-free weekend. We learned a little about resourcefulness, relationships, and simplicity. If you can manage it for a day or two or a whole weekend, it's actually quite refreshing.
To appreciate the setting, understand that our place there is quite simple. We do not have electricity or running water, but we do have a pitcher pump for the best spring water east of the Mississippi, propane for a fridge and lights, and comfortable furniture. Think 5-star camping. We also get cell coverage, meaning we're not always internet free.
But, on this weekend, neither of us thought to bring a lighting cable. Our phones were nearly dead by our arrival Friday night. In one of our few early internet moves, I texted my wife that we would see her Sunday, but otherwise remain incommunicado.
We also needed a few items from the local hardware store - yes, a few non Home Depot or Lowe's stores still exist in Appalachia - so we called to see what time they closed on Saturday. As long as we had them on the phone, we asked, do you have Portland cement? Re-bar? Yes, yes, and they were open til 3:00 on Saturdays. We had time and a plan.
Our Saturday consisted of work on a project to rectify one of the conditions mentioned earlier, running water, with the construction of two spring fed cisterns above our place, with about 250' of pipe connecting them to provide gravity pressure to our kitchen. This is old fashioned physical labor, which is its own reward in so many ways: invigorating, tiring, exhausting. We worked together and independently from first light till midday when Nate built a cookfire for the Italian sausages we had grabbed from our fridge at home, probably intended for spaghetti sauce, but ultimately, delicious wrapped in bread.
On our lunch break I told a story from my college days when two buddies had tried to convince me to run the Allagash (river in northern Maine) with them and a fourth paddler over April vacation. A quick search today of running the Allagash in April will alert you that canoes cannot get under some bridges until May, that ice-out generally happens between April 10th and 20th, and that the river may run at 15,000 -20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) when 1,500 cfs is optimal and 3,000 is considered dangerous. But we didn't have the Internet when I was in college; we had to find people who knew. It took a few days, but I asked some other people, some friends who had paddled in northern Maine, and while they couldn't tell me the current flow rate, they could tell me we'd be crazy to try such a trip in April. The trip was scrapped.
I told this story because it reminded me how information was secured in the pre-internet days: finding and talking to people with experience.
Back to our sausages by the campfire... While we were eating, our gas guy, Tom, stopped by. Tom works full time for a company, but moonlights on weekends. He knew we had a problem with our gas stove and stopped by to check it out. So I worked as his apprentice, holding a light, getting tools, and querying about the problem. We fixed it together; I learned how to disassemble the pilot and thermocouple and to clean the orifice in the burner throat. This was not something I'd want to learn on YouTube, but working with Tom directly gave me the chance to understand with experience. Better than internet, and more enduring knowledge.
Shortly after Tom left, our wood guy Murph showed up. (Visitors are not common up here, but today was unusually busy). He apologized for being late: we had expected him mid-day, and it was mid-afternoon. Evidently when you're cutting and splitting firewood in the woods, friends drop by to visit, throwing your whole schedule off. After dropping the wood, we talked about some clearing I had hoped to do myself, but didn't have time this fall with our cistern project. Murph explained that he was busy too, but would be available later in the fall; we could get together then to identify exactly what we wanted cleared. We hashed out a few other details while walking the woods. Murph has a cell phone, doesn't have a web presence, but was referred by another fellow whom we both like. We'll have the hill cleared by the time the snow flies. Check that box. No internet assist.
As the day wound down and Nate and I talked more about the technology-free pace of yesteryear, I recalled to him a story about another local man whose property abuts ours, who wanted to agree on our property line in anticipation of a timber harvest. He walked up on a Sunday morning, we looked at an old map, then headed up to the ridge line near where I knew a cairn stood. Ted and I looked at the cairn, looked again at the map, and agreed that the cairn was close enough to the property line for both of us. He'd have his sawyers stay to the south, and when I was ready to cut, we'd stay to the north. A handshake completed that understanding, and has held since. That box needs no checks.
The challenge of a running water system in New Hampshire is freezing pipes in winter, so a constant decline from upper cistern to lower is critical. Cisterns need to be reinforced, seams covered, and pipe fittings tight. It is tedious work, requiring patience and precision, and levels, stakes in rocky ground, and time. No Google search was going to assist in this project. No Bing present. Just dirty fingernails and sore muscles, ...and a little satisfaction at the visible progress.
Loon Lake is at the bottom of the hill. There are no power boats on the lake, and August has the best water all year. We swam and swam and swam, washing the day's grime and stretching our tired backs, then changed into 'street clothes' right in the empty parking lot. We grabbed a beer and a burger over in the next town (there are no restaurants or bars in our little town), and watched the Sox beat the Yankees from the bar. Asleep by 10, and we slept well. This no-internet day was alright.
Sunday was more of the same, 2 dead phones, brush to clear, then a familiar drive home. Once home, we didn't need the internet till Sunday night to pen our reprieve here on this ipad.
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