We were out to the woods last December for the day. (I had wanted to stay the night in the cabin, but it was going to get uncomfortably cold — not dangerously cold, but uncomfortably so. Plus the sunlight is gone by about 5:30 p.m. now, and without electricity in the cabin we would have been sitting around in the dark, waiting for bed time.)
One of the tasks I set myself at this time of the year is to walk my fence lines. I want to pay attention to what’s happening along my property lines so my neighbors will know that I care. I’ve also had this notion that I would cut a path along the fence for walking. This is a bigger job than it seems when musing about it in the comfy chair on the cabin porch, but a few cuts with each pass and I should have that path clear in a hundred years or so. I also refresh my markings when I walk my perimeters, which involves mostly adding new survey tape to the posts but sometimes also cutting low limbs from trees in such a way that the fresh cuts will be visible to anyone on the other side of the fence.
It’s not a big walk; the whole perimeter is less than two miles. But for little Queequeg, that’s a lot of ground to cover with four short legs. He tends to wear out before we’re halfway done. Carrying him in our arms is not a good option since we tend to need those arms for other chores, like carrying saws and loppers or pushing branches out of our way.
We had talked for a long time about getting some sort of harness for carrying him on our chest, much as you see babies being carried by young parents. We’ve looked at those in the store, but they don’t seem proportioned for little animals with tails. Plus, they’re expensive. So Libby hit upon the idea of carrying him in a lightweight backpack, of which we have dozens in our packed basement, castoffs of our children now moved away.
You see the outcome in the photo above. Queequeg was reluctant at first, but he soon came to appreciate the qualities of his new position. He could be with us (rather than be stuck alone in the cabin, which we’ve done in the past). He was up high, where he could see everything. And he didn’t have to walk. I liked it because he wasn’t off in the leaf litter, which this time of the year is the same color as his fur. We’re constantly worried about some fox or bobcat seeing Queequeg and deciding to make a meal of him. Queequeg tends to be willful, too. He will wander off and not always come when called. So having him corralled like this sets my mind at ease.
The backpack system worked well on our first trial last weekend. We walked most of the southern line (no surprises there), through thickets and up and down hills, before we had to abandon the arrangement. Queequeg hadn’t objected. Nor had Libby, who was carrying him. But we had come across a couple of very nice round rocks that begged to be collected, and there wasn’t room in the pack for both the round rocks and the small dog, so the small dog was set on his feet and had to finish the hike under his own steam. That wasn’t so bad since we had reached our southwest corner, where our road begins. We were able to walk along our open road all the way back to the cabin. (The road follows the property line for most of its journey.)
In the afternoon, I had other chores to do. One involved gleaning the forest near the cabin for large rocks to add to the stone wall I’m building behind the cabin. (The wall is intended to be a sort of fire break. I don’t know if it will work or if it will simply lead to the accumulation of a lot of leaves that will allow any ground fire to leap the wall and continue toward the wooden cabin.) I used the wheelbarrow to go up the road for my collecting spree, and Queequeg wanted to come. Thus you see the arrangement below:
He did not like this at all, as you can tell from the scowl on his face. The surface was slippery under his feet, and my movements made the wheelbarrow wobbly from his perspective. After about fifty feet of this, he tried to get out, so I lifted him to the ground. He then darted down the road to where Libby was.
I managed to collect a half dozen good rocks this way, but it occurred to me that I ought to be using the truck for the job. It can go farther than the wheel barrow and carry more weight. Plus Queequeg can sit on the back seat and supervise through an open window. Next time, I suppose.