Planning Ahead

     I left the house at 5:30 in the morning excited and optimistic with the prospects for the day. I had packed the car the night before and planned on not being home until evening. But I wasn’t going hunting or fishing. This was a pre-season prep work trip, necessary to get my hunting territory ready for the 2013-14 season.
     I began my efforts a few weeks ago. The primary objective of my preparations was to build a ground blind in a spot that has always been a top producer for deer. The tree stand that we had set up in that spot was then going to get transferred to another very promising but as yet untried location. Over the course of this undertaking I learned a few things about ground blind construction. I have no carpentry training and very little experience, and knew full well that this project might turn out to be a disaster. My faith in myself was weak enough, and my confidence in failure sufficiently robust to drive me to contemplate a plan B: sucking it up and buying a fabric blind. And I got used to the idea. I could see myself standing before a wrecked heap of broken lumber and mangled screws unfolding a brand new pop-up blind, smiling as I read a carefully laid out set of instructions. But I was getting ahead of things. After all, I had had the sense to plan ahead to some extent and think through a design based on availability of materials, budget, ease of construction and intended use. I had a readily available stockpile of assorted lumber, the remnants of a host of different projects that never came to be, piled up at our hunting camp. So when it came time to start building all I had to do was select my wood and start cutting. This part went well even with just a 12 inch camp saw and I couldn’t help but feel smug as I sawed away knowing that most other fools wouldn’t even dream of cutting lumber without getting electricity or two-cycle fuel involved.
      It wasn’t until I started sinking in screws that I ran into the first glitch, one that could have been easily avoided. I knew I had a box containing several pounds of screws to work with. I thought they were about 2.5 inches long. Turns out they were only 2 inches, yielding only about 1/4 inch of bite to hold the framing pieces together. At one point during my pre-trip preparations I had thought about buying longer screws, just in case. But I succumbed to the nagging pull of human logic that casually but confidently insists “don’t worry, it will be fine.” I reasoned that the short screws would be adequate to keep my modest structure together for a few weeks more until I could come back with longer ones. This strategy probably would have worked had the second problem not come up: my lumber was not in the best of condition. Most of it was salvaged from an old tree house and had been left in a careless pile on the bare ground. Some pieces were in remarkably good shape. Others were rotted but serviceable, meaning that if enough screws were buried in the pithy parts and if a strong wind didn’t kick up it would hold together (maybe).
     After lugging my materials into the woods and getting lumber fastened together I came to fully appreciated the benefits of a bubble level. I had brought one, but had not thought to bring into the woods with me. And why walk all the way back to get it? I’ve got peepers capable of discerning level from crooked and brains enough to figure out the cause of discrepancies. By the time I had the blind framed in it had a clearly visible lean. I set to work gently correcting, sinking more screws while pushing and eye-leveling. But to no avail. As I paused to grab another handful of those just a bit too short screws I found myself staring, paranoid that my creation was slowly falling over. I wasn’t paranoid. After thirty seconds of barely perceptible tipping the whole thing toppled. So I set to work again. Screws were backed out, soft patches of wood noted and the whole thing was reassembled with much greater care. I left the woods that day feeling ambivalent that the frame would be intact when I returned.
     Two weeks later as I approached the construction site through at stand of hemlocks, my back pack full of tools,  I was happy to see most of the blind was still standing. Two five foot long cross members had fallen down but everything else was oddly secure. The three inch long screws I’d brought firmly anchored the bottom of the frame and uprights, and when the time came to replace the fallen elements of the top frame they got the job done. This concluded the major component of my blind and I was happy to have it behind me. Lifting a large sheet of thin plywood that was to be the roof on top of the frame was relatively easy and a few short screws secured it. The addition of crossmembers approximately three feet off the ground provided adequate attachment points for siding.
     I was quite pleased with what I had accomplished particularly considering the extra effort it demanded. I like to think I learned my lesson about planning ahead and being prepared for the vicissitudes of building even a basic ground blind in the middle of the woods. Forethought is great and will carry you a long way but there will likely be at least a few unforeseen developments. When these arise the best asset is time. Had I not begun construction several months in advance I might have ended up rushing to assemble a store-bought blind then night before opening day.

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