Nik's Mountain Adventures

Tales of a Wannabe Lumberjack

My Final Transmission

It’s hard to believe these four months are over already.

In the months before I arrived, it was hard to fathom what it would be like to be here and now that I’m here it’s hard to fathom what it will be like to be gone. I’ve gotten into a rhythm here, a day to day routine that has made me feel at home here. At the beginning of this semester, each task was new, fresh, and confusing. Now, when I wake up and go about my day, I know what I’m doing. I know how to do dish crew, how to collect and clean eggs, and how to give a good speech for English class. I know the people I’m living with and what they’re like and I’ve learned how to go about my days here pretty smoothly.

And tomorrow I’m leaving this place that I’ve gotten so used to. Tomorrow I go back to the “normal” life that I live in Exeter, but haven’t been apart of since late July. It’s going to be strange and it won’t be easy but I’m excited nonetheless.

I’ve had a fantastic time here and it’s going to be sad to leave, but I think it’s time that I come back home and bring what I’ve learned here back with me. I think I’m ready to get back into life in Exeter.

I’m feeling pretty bittersweet about leaving, but I think that’s a good thing. If I was ecstatic to go home and completely ready to leave here wouldn’t that mean that I didn’t have a great time here? And if I was horrified to go home and all I wanted to do was stay here for as long as I could, what would that say about my life at home? At our bonfire last night (which was awesome, by the way) my environmental science teacher summed up those same thoughts with a sentence. He said it’s best to be sad to leave where you’re coming from but also excited to go where you’re headed. Wise words if I may say so myself

To wrap this all up, I’ll mention some of the many things I’ve done/experienced this semester.

This semester I have:

Made a meat fortress in walk in freezer

Figured out the two hundred year old history of a piece of forest

Fed and cared for eleven goats

Mucked out a goat barn

Collected chicken eggs

Cut down trees

Harvested food that I went on to eat

Seen a cow slaughtered

Lived with and gotten close to eight other people

Planned and preformed in a “Saturday Night Live” parody

Herded cattle

Learned in and out of the classroom

Played guitar and banjo

Sang

Laughed

Danced

Run

Split wood

Met a professional apiarist (beekeeper)

Met a five foot tall inflatable deer

Met a man who knew he wanted to be a diary farmer since when he was a toddler

Lived on my own in the woods for three days

Gone night sledding

Gone to the Tunbridge Fair

Made new friends

Grown close with teachers, not just students

Kept a blog

Realized that it’s not actually that cold in seacoast New Hampshire

Gone pond swimming in late October

and a whole lot more.

It has undoubtedly been, overall, a fun and beneficial experience and I’ve enjoyed documenting it here for myself and anyone else who has cared to read it and I hope I’ll get to share some of these stories, and one’s that didn’t make it onto the blog, with you in person.

See you all soon,

Nik

Something I learned today: When given four months, I can acquire an impressive amount of stuff that needs to be packed up and sent home.

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Time to Party till I’m Purple

My final final is complete! Four days full of stress and exams are done and now I have no graded learning until January!

Fortunately, Mountain School isn’t quite over yet. Instead of sending us away grateful for it all to be over, the faculty has incorporated a “fun week” into the schedule. It’s the week after exams where we don’t have anymore work so we can pretty much do all the things we wanted to do but haven’t  been able to yet.

Tomorrow we’ll be having a plentiful sleep in, a pizza dinner at the town center, and a night hike which I’m pretty excited about.

A bonfire, manhunt, a pancake dinner, and a dance are just some of the other planned events for this coming week.

I’ll try to post about said events as they occur!

But now I think I’ll go read, play some guitar, maybe do some laundry, and, most importantly, relax.

Nik

Something I learned today: John McPhee wrote the essay “Encounters with the Arch Druid”

Bambi’s Mom Resurrected

I haven’t written anything in over a week. I guess that’s partially because I haven’t had much time to write but it’s also due to the fact that nothing terribly interesting or unique has happened this week.

I got back from Thanksgiving break and was promptly shoved right back into classes and work periods. It was a pretty abrupt change and I’m still trying to get back into work mode.

Fortunately, the streak of uniformity was broken yesterday.

Yesterday was my friend’s birthday and, to celebrate, her parents sent her two enormous packages. One of these boxes contained junk food. The other box contained junk. For anyone who as ever been to Portsmouth, NH, it was as if her parents had gone to Macro Polo and bought one of every item in the store. Miniature playing cards, silly pins, and eye glasses that double as straws were all included. But the school favorite so far has been the five foot tall inflatable deer that was included in the box.

The deer, who has been affectionately named “Baby” has been making surprise appearances across campus for the past day and a half. First, he was in one of the bathrooms, then he was outside faculty meeting, and now he’s staring at me in the library.

Baby has become a welcome addition to the Mountain School community and he’s made my week a little brighter.

Unfortunately, Baby is not allowed in the woods because it’s hunting season and we don’t want him getting hurt.

Nik

Something I learned today: organizing school gear is a real hassle.

Baby the inflatable deer

Foul Fowl


I remember the summer before fourth grade I was driving across the country with my Dad in order to bring our car to our new home in Exeter, New Hampshire. During that trip, I spent a great deal of time watching a multi-episode BBC documentary about dinosaurs. I remember being stunned and in disbelief when, in the final episode, the British narrator told me that the closest living relatives to the dinosaurs are birds. Birds like chickens. “Ha!” I thought to myself. “Chickens are small, weak, and nothing like the mighty T. Rex. Scientists must have it wrong. There’s no way chickens can be even remotely related to dinosaurs.” 

This perception quickly changed once I was put on the egg collecting chore.

The Mountain School owns probably between fifty and one hundred chickens that we use for eggs and meat. Right now they’re laying close to fifty eggs a day and it’s my job to collect those eggs twice a day and bring them to the kitchen.

Although it’s more eerie at night, the daytime is the most dangerous time to collect eggs. At night they sleep on top of their laying boxes but during the day many of them will be sitting inside the boxes, staring out at you with their reptilian gaze and clucking menacingly every once in a while.

When you crouch down to the level of the laying boxes and stare straight into the face of a chicken that does not want to move, that is when their reptilian heritage is truly visible.  It’s very hard to convince yourself to pick up and move a chicken when all you can think of is the velociraptor scenes from “Jurassic Park.” Sometimes they come quietly and might even move for you. Other times they’ll peck at you. It doesn’t hurt but it’s surprising and far from pleasant.

The moral of the story is, don’t judge a chicken just by its exterior qualities. Inside every chicken is the blood of an ancient and angry dinosaur, ready to strike at any moment. Next time you can, I encourage you to stare into a chickens beady eyes. I dare you to tell me you don’t see some velociraptor in them.

Nik

P.S Sorry for the delayed post. Much like at Exeter, it’s been a VERY busy week here.

Something I learned today: Clouds don’t precipitate. The moisture in clouds precipitates.

New York Times Writes Article, and Succeeds at Sounding Silly

The NY Times wrote an article about us a couple of weeks ago. It only made it into the paper today because of Hurricane Sandy but it made it nonetheless! I thought the piece was… amusing. The woman who wrote the article, in my opinion, made us sound very simple. I think she exaggerated how disconnected we actually are.

Between English and environmental science classes, they care for farm animals, chop wood and read the works of Robert Frost. And in the process, many say, they stop scouring the campus for its sparse bars of reception and lose the habit of checking their Facebook pages at every opportunity.”

I haven’t read a single Robert Frost poem outside of English class all semester and I check Facebook here just about as much as I do at home. The way she wrote it made me feel like some form of freakish zoo oddity.  At one point she mentions a rare spot where cell service exists. I had no idea one was there because I’ve never gone looking for cell service. I just assume I don’t have it and I leave my phone in my desk drawer.

The spot, between the potato patch and a llama named Nigel, is something of an open secret at the school in this remote corner of Vermont where simplicity is valued over technology.”

“Where simplicity is valued over technology.” That line amuses me. Another great one from her was:

“The school offers high school juniors, many from elite private institutions in the Northeast, a semester to immerse themselves in nature.”

Well there you have it folks. Mountain School is a place where spoiled kids from “elite private institutions” can go to live a simpler life, get away from our cruel society, and live in “nature.” What the heck does “immerse themselves in nature” even mean?

Anyways, I thought it was really cool to get an article written about us, I just think it could have been a little less snobbish.

But hey! That’s my take on it.

Here’s the link if you’d like to read the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/us/vermont-school-cut-off-from-technology-faces-its-intrusion.html

What do you think? Tell me about it in the comments section.

Till Next Time,

Nik

Something I learned today: Increase in global temperatures might make everything warmer, or it might cause the Earth, particularly Europe, to get way colder, as in Scandinavia would be practically uninhabitable.

Too Cool for Regular School

I’m pretty sure my work period activity couldn’t be handled at a traditional academic institution simply because it really is “too cool for school.”

Two local loggers are around this week to clear-cut a patch of forest on campus. They’re clear cutting it so that new growth can develop in that area and students have been coming every day to see how they fell really big trees. One other pretty cool thing about these guys is that they use a team of horses to pull their logs! Horses! Two enormous black geldings (castrated male horses) named Rob and Luke that can pull giant logs uphill all day!

I went to work helping one of the loggers with the horses. He started by having me hitch logs to them and other grunt work that needed to get done. Then, to my surprise, he let me drive them. That’s right, today I literally got to “take the reins” and drive two work horses as they pulled giant logs up hill. To their credit, I didn’t have to actually do that much work because of how well-trained they were.

I finished the work period with a profound respect for the strength of these animals.

In other news it’s getting cold here in Vershire!

The winter jackets have been broken out and it started snowing a fair amount today. Not a lot of it stuck but I’ve heard we might get some decent snow on Wednesday. I hope it’s not a hoax.

Nik

Something I learned today: The horse command to turn left is pronounced “haw.”

Wall-Stiles and Rock Climbing

One of the environmental science teachers here is in a band called “The Wall-Stiles.” Last night they came and played for our Saturday night activity. In the meetings in which we organized the concert, some of the planners were worried that people wouldn’t enjoy a full two hour concert.

Boy were they wrong.

For the a couple minutes at the beginning people were calmly seated and passively listening to the music of the Wall-Stiles. Within in a few minutes that was fixed when people started dancing. We danced for nearly all of the concert The Wall Stiles played a whole bunch of different stuff. Covers, originals, rock, folk, an Irish jig, and even a couple waltzes. It was easily one of my favorite weekend activities so far. A couple students (myself included) even got to come up and join them for a song which was a blast. We played Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It’s a little too somber for my taste but it’s what the other kids wanted to play and it was fun regardless. We had the Wall-Stiles play an encore at the end.

Today I was off campus for most of the day on a trip to a nearby indoor climbing gym. That was a ton of fun, especially since I haven’t climbed since June, I think. It wasn’t a large gym but it was big enough and I left thoroughly sore in the forearms.

All in all, it’s been a good weekend.

Nik

Something I learned today: How to identify which direction the wind that blew a tree down came from, even after the tree as decomposed.

Hurricane Sandy and Getting Lost Intentionally

Let me start this post of by saying that, in Vershire, Hurricane Sandy was an absolute dud. On Monday it rained and was sort of windy. Yesterday and today it rained a little bit and was cloudy outside. I hope everyone else at home who faced a more impressive storm are okay and that the damage is under control.

In other news, today I went on an adventure known as “Find Your Way Back to Campus.” It was a lot like what it sounds like.

Along with three teammates, I got in a van, blindfolded myself, and was dropped off in unfamiliar territory. My teammates and I said goodbye to our teacher and picked up our maps. We oriented ourselves and picked a point on the map that we thought we were at. We took a bearing from that spot to campus and started walking. Naturally, like all other big Mountain School outdoor adventures, it was raining.

As Calvin’s dad would say: “It built character.”

We stepped in some puddles, crossed some streams, and hopped some fences. One of us even got electrocuted when she ducked under an electric fence that we thought was off. One of the toughest parts for me was convincing myself that we knew what we were doing and that we should keep going in the direction we were headed. It was really easy to doubt myself and my friends out there. Thankfully, we emerged victorious!

We ended up making it back in just over two hours, right in time for lunch.

And now I know that I can in fact find my way to someplace when put in unfamiliar territory with just a map and a compass.

Nik

Something I learned today: Just because someone says “I know exactly where we are!” doesn’t mean that they actually know where we are.

Omnivore’s Dilemma

I got the opportunity to see a cow get slaughtered this morning. Don’t worry, it was an optional experience and I was not forced by the school to see it.

I’m really glad I went to watch though. About half the students were there, vegetarians and carnivores alike, to observe. I’ll spare you the details.

I decided to watch because I felt it would be hypocritical of me to eat meat if I wasn’t comfortable seeing where it came from. I’m happy to report that, after this morning,  I still feel comfortable eating meat.

I can’t think of much else to say about it without repeating myself. It was something that I’m really glad I saw and something many meat eaters will never see.

A bunch of people jumped in Derby Pond again today. I’m hoping it becomes a Saturday tradition.

We’re also gearing up for TMS SNL tonight. I wrote a sketch and I’m hoping it, along with all the acts are pretty amusing.

Not much else going on here. It was a tough week and we’re all pretty tired so hopefully tonight will be a good way to recover.

Till next time,

Nik

Something I learned yesterday: There are more bacterium in a teaspoon of soil than their are humans on Earth.

Mud, Sweat, and No Tears

The two boys dorms this semester are Miles and Conard (my dorm). Miles and Conard have a friendly rivalry going on which culminated in a tackle football game on the town common this Saturday.

Risking life and limb I decided to go up against the powerhouse that is Miles, a dorm composed of talented hockey players, a rower/wrestler, one of the best high school pitchers in NYC, and a deer hunter from Tennessee, just to name a few. I’m pretty sure I was the shortest one on the field.

We played eight vs. eight since Conard and Miles were both missing some players. Since I’m not very experienced at football, I ended up playing on the offensive and defensive line for most of the game.

Did I mention I was the shortest one on the field?

It had rained in Vershire the night before so the town common was a muddy mess, all the better for sliding and falling. We played for close to an hour and a half and had a great time throughout.

In order to humor me, my dorm mates designated me the running back for two of the last plays of the game. Unfortunately they weren’t very subtle about making the play.

“Nik, I’m going to take the hike and then hand the ball to you. You just run okay!” My friend yelled. All of Miles was quickly in position to take me down.

In order to console me my friend gave me a piece of advice, “It will only hurt if you slow down

The game lasted for about an hour and Conard ended up losing by just one touchdown.

After the game we all partook in the great equalizer of jumping in really cold water.

Derby Pond was positively frigid but I embraced my Swedish blood and went in a total of five times, tying for the record.

We ended the day with a casino night, which was a good time, but it was nothing compared to the combination of laughs and moans that the we all shared as we shivered on the grass next to Derby Pond.

~Nik

Something I learned today: To experience maximum glaciation, Earth needs to undergo a high orbital eccentricity.

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