The end of winter is quite possibly the heaviest time of year. Everything is swollen with water and frozen snow, things are melting, sloshing, sliding. We are all worn out from the stress of additional winter chores, and it’s easy for your mood to get like our driveway – muddy. And yet . . . it’s also a time of new beginnings. This morning I sat down with Daniel to ask him a question someone asked when we first moved here, “How has living off grid effected your work?” Dan has always approached his craft as an art form, but we’ve been living here for ten years now, time enough for some things to have changed.
Q: What’s been your biggest challenge, building from an off-grid woodshop?
DAN: Generating the electricity to run my woodshop is a huge challenge. I have to stop for maintenance or repair issues in order to keep my generator running smoothly. And then there’s the size of my shop. It’s very small. I can’t build while I’m finishing, because the dust in such a small space would ruin the finish. So I have to put on a coat of oil and then wait 6 hours. The good thing is there are plenty of chores for me to get at doing.
Q: What has changed for you recently, now that you’ve been here 10 years?
DAN: I had such a sense of reverence when we first moved here. That lasted about seven years. Now, I feel like I’m a part of the place. Last night, I stood outside and listened to the dark, feeling out as far as I could. Your presence gets spread wide out across the landscape, and the feeling is quite awesome. I don’t know what that is, exactly, but it tunes me to what is going on all around me, this wild place. This time of year, you can’t hear anything for miles and miles, nothing human, not even a dog barking. I could almost hear the stars twinkling.
Q: And how has living here changed the way you work with wood?
DAN: I do feel that there is something special about the maple up here. I like to think that what I build from their lumber carries a piece of this place. I have a deeper feel for the trees now that I’ve felled and milled them. It gives you a feel for the lumber that you wouldn’t get just from working it. That being said, I often get an idea when I’m milling a tree about what I’d like to build. And then, four years later when the boards are ready, I realize my idea won’t work. The usable material ends up being very different than what you think it will be.
I now take a more open approach, slabbing out everything, every board, and then drying it until it’s stable. You have to re-introduce yourself to the material once it’s dry, because it varies so much. As with so many things in life, you don’t always get what you think you’re going to get.
Daniel Dunbar 8:23 am March 29th., 2013.