I was sitting at a stop light behind a liquid nitrogen tanker, waiting for the light to turn. I heard the roar of an over-stressed engine. I looked into my rear-view to see what at first glance looked like a big, bright yellow El Dorado hurtling towards my rear bumper. It was going so fast that I couldn't even begin to guess its speed. I glanced back to the front of my jeep. The tanker had just begun to pull away. I had time for two words. "Oh, Fuck!"
The head-rest kept my neck from breaking but I felt both shoulders give way. I felt/heard a massive "Crunch" then felt an agonizingly cold wave splash over me. I began to scream. That's all I remember.
I woke up lying on my back. The ceiling was smooth and white. I was breathing quickly, almost in a precursor to hyperventilation. I tried to sit up but failed. I was too weak. I looked down at my hands. My arms were covered in sleek brown-black fur, as were the backs of my hands. It was about an inch long and was fairly dense. What the fuck.?
I tried to say just that. All that came out was "Wuu daa fuu?" I flopped back and relaxed, suddenly extremely tired. I heard a voice. "Integration successful. Brain wave activity has stabilized. Patterns reflect consciousness."
I heard foot steps. I turned my head to see a little fellow some three feet tall. He had two arms, two legs and a head. That's the closest he'd ever come to human. He looked like a beige egg with spindly limbs and a fat cylinder for a head. I wondered if it were an environment suit of some kind. It was partially covered in scrollwork and had a harness fastened around it.
"You are our twenty-seventh successful re-animation project. You were in storage for many centuries. The planet on which you were found has been depopulated by interstellar migration and later by ecological collapse. We believe that the time is now some sixty-thousand years past the time of your storage. Do you have any questions?"
"Yes. Two come immediately to mind. What is to become of me and my admittedly antique knowledge, and why the hell am I covered in hair?"
"Interesting. Several others first inquired as to how it was that we were speaking English, or Chinese as the case may be. We are a race experiencing an exploration phase. After performing a reasonably thorough examination of this planet we found two repositories of bodies in ultra-cold storage and several libraries in various languages. Several of us have absorbed the languages to scan the information. We have found that no one civilization has discovered everything. There are niche discoveries made by each culture. Many are little known or unknown to vast numbers of others. This caused us to be very careful in our examinations."
I asked again. "What about the fur?" "The planet is experiencing an ice age at this time. The hairy integument you have been given is part of a series of adaptations to the environment."
This alarmed me. "Am I to be dropped on the surface to exist as I can? Am I to be alone? Will I be given any supplies?"
He held up his arms. "Slowly, slowly! Once you recover from your reanimation you will be joining a group of others that have similar experiences. You cannot come with us, as your biological systems would not handle the trade-offs we have made to allow us interstellar travel. I look nothing like the shell you see before you. My true form would severely alarm you. You must stay here, on the planet that we circle."
"Our ethicists would not allow us to 'dump and run' on you. Certain long-lived supplies will be prepared and suitable locations are currently being evaluated. We have a target of two hundred breeding members to provide for a viable genetic pool."
"You comfort me in your level of preparation. You and yours have my thanks."
"You are welcome. Please sleep for now. When you rise you shall feel much better. Food, drink and company will be available at that time. You will find a tunic hanging by the door when you rise." He reached out and touched something at the foot of my bed. My lights went out as if they'd installed a light switch.
When I awoke I naturally swung my legs out of bed and tried to stand. Whoops! I had to catch my equilibrium. I sat there examining myself. My face was fairly flat, and I had a centrally-located nose, not a snout. I did have some fangs, though. "Great", I thought. "I'm a fucking Wookie." I carefully stood, ready to catch myself. I carefully walked over to the wall where I saw something between a smock and a padded gambezon hanging there. I put it on over my head. It went down to my knees.
I found a pad next to the door. I figured that the largest button would let people out in case of an emergency, so it tapped it. The door opened. A series of small lights in the floor strobed off to the left. I followed them. After a short while of walking that still made an impression on me to prove the scale of the ship, I came upon a lounge, or cafeteria. There were small groups of hairy people sitting around talking. I walked up to a group and waved to get someone's attention. "Can anyone tell my how to get some food, please?"
A tall skinny fellow said, "I guess I'm the group greeter. I'm Simon. Just walk up to that window over there." He pointed, and continued. "Press a button next to a picture that shows something you might want to eat. It takes about three minutes. It dings and a sliding door opens. When you're done take your dishes to the window with a red border and put them on the surface. That's it!"
"Hey, thanks, man. I'm Harry." I tore into a generous serving of roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans with a side of iced tea. Whatever or whoever they used for a cook was pretty good! I wandered back over to the group that I'd first approached. I stayed on the periphery but close enough to listen into their conversation. They were discussing what level of civilization that we might be stuck with. They were thinking of all the resources being tied up in forms unusable by primitive technologies. I stuck my hand up to draw a bit of attention. "After sixty thousand years hopefully some subduction, vulcanism and plate tectonics have eliminated most of man's pollution and have brought new resources to useable deposits." We had a discussion about the effects of millions versus thousands of years. We had no way of knowing.
You see, if the ecology had collapsed as the little guy had said, then the planet would have to have been re-seeded to have any sort of mammalian population in that sort of time frame. If there was any biological reseeding done, there may have been some asteroidal terra-forming done by orbital bombardment, in which case there could be one hell of a lot of nickel-iron deposits right at the surface down there. Only a survey could tell us, and hopefully they'd leave us with a geomagnetic survey before they left.
I went back to the dinner dispenser to look through all the buttons. I was pleased to find a pad of paper and a pen. I ordered them and sat down at a table to get my thoughts down on paper.
I had hopes to get us to a level of technology close to that of the 1600's, maybe with a Franklin stove invented. It wasn't too much of an anachronism. We didn't want to get trapped on the pollution express as we had done before. I had hopes that some sort of draft animal could be had to aid in plowing and transportation. A meat animal such as a chicken would be a great asset as well. Were there bees? We needed waterproofing. We needed certain grass crops for cloth. Linseed oil came from flax. Flax made wonderful cloth. Linseed oil protected wood and waterproofed cloth. Hemp was used for something like burlap, canvas and rope making.
If we had agriculture, blacksmithing and pottery we'd be well on the way to a sustainable culture. I hoped like hell that we wouldn't be trapped in a paleolithic culture.
I started at the bottom. Cordage, basket making, some sort of sharp edges and fire would give a group enough of a boost to survive, given the availability of reeds and straight, thin-stemmed woody brush or saplings. I hoped that there were more reenactors or people familiar with the technology of early-American Indians than just myself. I knew a lot of tricks, such as the design and use of a mat loom, a pit kiln for glazing pottery and the use of an Atl-Atl, or small spear thrower. With some practice I could make a net. My basket making would be laughable at best, but I had seen it done and knew the principles of weaving a split wood basket with a double-bound top lip.
Reed mats made shelters and sleeping surfaces. Look at a wickiup or an Indian row house. I hoped to god that cattails still existed. Baskets allowed people to collect and store food. An Atl-Atl allowed a hunter to take down game from further away than a spear would allow, raising humans above the level of a food source to the top of the food chain, capable of taking out large carnivores. Weighted nets would do the same thing but were much more dangerous. nets opened up an entirely new food source--fish and crustaceans. The use of a kiln gave pottery for cooking and eating as well as opening up some more forms of food storage.
Agriculture meant collecting and saving seeds between years, preparing soil for seeding, weeding the fields and harvesting the crops. It's what changed civilizations from hunter-gatherers to dwelling in one place. It tied them to their fields. While allowing higher population densities due to food access it did nasty things like killing people from sanitation issues as well.
Forges were not portable. Not really. It was easier to travel to find fuel and ore than to move a forge.
Hmm. A good site would have running water, flat fertile land for fields (say that three times fast), wood or coal for fuel, tall woody undergrowth and clay deposits where a river turned. Limestone or chalk deposits would be nice. A local plateau or badlands would be wonderful for defense. Put it all together and it sounded like it would be almost impossible to find, especially with the limitations on habitable locations enforced by the ice age. I certainly wished the crew that were scanning for sites good luck!
Some people came around to see what I was doing. Several passed around my notes. I kept writing. I noted what was necessary to construct shelters from lumber. You had to cut down the trees, saw the trees into slabs and beams (either with a pit saw or a sawmill), drill holes for pegs and hammer them in or forge spikes and nails. A large cross-cut saw, a 'slick' or timber-framer's chisel, a mallet, an auger and bits at a minimum were necessary to do post-and-beam hollow construction. Dry, aged wood was more stable. One could bake pre-cut wood in ovens called kilns, but this was fuel and manpower intensive, and the wood was much more difficult to cut afterwards. I'd hate to try sawing it with a pit saw. I supposed that walking beams set up as teeter-totters would make it easier, but no faster. Some people asked about the devices I described. I always was a decent hand at sketching, so I illustrated a mat loom, a long house and a long house frame.
Glass was a hard technology to get right and had quite exacting requirements. Though not intuitive and requiring a good adhesive, hollow glass bricks were quit efficient us of the materials for low tech. A five-sided mold with an insert made a good, durable product that allowed illumination while remaining quite difficult to break through. You couldn't see through them for shit, though. Single layered poured windows were the only early tech that I could think of that allowed for seeing.
Paints and varnishes were used for a reason. Wood absorbed water from the environment, both shortening its life span and destroying joints. Even oiling wood was better than nothing.
I knew that running DC current through salt water produced chlorine bleach. How much voltage? I didn't know. I just knew that it worked. That would give us a sanitizing agent. Copper wire and a magnet would give us a simple generator. If we had bees then we had honey. Honey was hygroscopic and made for another sanitizing agent that could be used within a wound. Hell, the Greeks used it!
Cement and concrete were known in Roman times. It took a specific type of stone to crush to make cement that was water-proof. Then cement had to be sealed to keep from wicking water. Otherwise in cold climates it would shatter from internal formation of ice crystals.
Crushed limestone and fire made lime. More fire made anhydrous, or quicklime. That was part of the equation.
Pivot jacks, what we commonly called car jacks, were much easier to make than hydraulic jacks, though less powerful and often times much more dangerous to use. Block and tackle were another force-multiplying tool employing a form of leverage. A simple snatch-block with a pulley effectively doubled your power when pulling a rope. Sleepers, rollers and a pry-bar were sufficient to move heavy objects such as stone piers, and incorporating block and tackle into such an operation made it more controllable. A dependable supply of strong rope was mandatory, as was either extremely sturdy wood or metal for the pulley blocks.
Such little bits of primitive technology had a low ecological impact yet were capable of enabling engineering on a fairly large scale--civil engineering. Smaller scale devices such as greenhouses and glass-block walls would minimize the use of sustainable resources, as would the use of Franklin stoves which, when invented, were quickly adopted because the heat produced by the flames tended less to go up the flue and more to heat the surroundings, thus the people spent less time cutting wood in the winter. The added benefit that they provided a cooking surface was icing on the cake. Similarly, the use of a smoke-house dramatically increased the efficiency of preserving and storing meat compared to using open ricks for smoking their catch.
Some of my notes caused a furor. Others caused intense conversations. One thing they did not do was generate complacency. I noted several others go to the 'cafeteria machines' to get pads and pens of their own. Two other clusters of authors appeared.
After dinner we all agreed to assemble and talk over what our brain-storming had generated. One of our hosts came to listen in and comment on sustainable resources and technology. Once we quieted down (he) began to talk.
"The planet below us is not the Earth as you knew it. I has undergone many violent transformations since its depopulation. One of you considered the re-seeding of the biosphere both with metal-bearing asteroids and with both flora and fauna imported from other worlds. That was done long ago and the ecology was left to stabilize. You shall find many unusual biota waiting for you. Yes, bees do still exist though they are a bit larger and more aggressive than you recall. A four-legged animal that resembles a cross between a horse and a zebra populates several plains. The chicken is no more, but several larger avian breeds are to be found that may be domesticated.
The poles have shifted. What was once known as Antarctica is now cut by the equator, as are India and much of Russia. There is now a large fresh-water lake breaking up the Ural mountains. The bread-basket of the world is now just North of there, in what was Siberia. The equator is cut by the ice sheets near what was once Tibet. Vulcanism has caused Franz Joseph Land to rise up out of the sea as a new continent approximately one-third that of what you remember to be Australia.
The ring of fire has undergone several climate-destroying events, several of which caused massive ash-falls, land subsidence and accretion.
There are many untapped metal, mineral and coal deposits left untouched under what was the surface of Siberia, what is now some of the most supportive property on the planet.
You will be given quite a bit of equipment and household goods to establish your colony, including several tons of rather bland tasting survival 'brownies' that should carry the colony until crops can be brought in.
Some of you have written much on utilizing nothing but sustainable, low or no pollution technology, in effect learning from the mistakes of your forebearers. We applaud those measures and hope that you can maintain your will to continue on in this direction.
We debated whether to give you several examples of anachronistic technology and have decided, for the most part, against it as they would not aid your survival in the long run.
We shall continue to monitor these group discussions to both learn what we can from you and to work with you to provide the best chance for your colony's survival." With that the little guy left the room. Most of us sat in thought, digesting the information that we had been given.
I had one final cup of tea then went back to my room for the night. However, my room wasn't mine anymore. I was directed to a four-person bunk room by the floor lights. Like I was attached to anything?
There was so much that we needed to know that would be considered common knowledge back in the day. How to construct a lime kiln, for example, or how to build a glass manufactory. Some of us had the principles down as to how to build and operate a forge, but we'd never poured liquid bronze or copper. There were supposedly encyclopedia out there that still existed when the travellers arrived. It would keep us from making so many wrong turns, keep us from wasting so many resources to have a copy of those encyclopedia with us, not only for our generation but for the generations to come. I wondered if they would build things for us from plastics that were used for re-entry wing surfaces. The Franklin stoves, for example. With high strength walls and heat conductive top surfaces they would be high efficiency stoves. Simple bimetallic fans could be used to spread the heat released by the fires, and the plastics wouldn't have the problems early fireboxes had of corrosion and rust. Mould board plows were needed to turn the heavy turf. Discs and harrows were needed to break down the soil. Sickles were needed to harvest grasses and, hopefully, flax. We desperately needed the materials to teach our children the written word. Without it we would probably regress to the neolithic stage.
I worried about how we were going to keep warm during the first few years, surviving the winters. What form of shelter could we build? I despaired of finding a solution that would not lose us several of our colony to cold and to the local predators. I'd love to find an area where shelved rock was available, such as slate or limestone that could be fractured into slabs. The best solution, of course, would be caves. Give me a couple hammers and a box of chisels. I could make almost any cave habitable unless it were flooded.
I did my part and carefully drew a buckboard wagon and a Conestoga wagon. Then I cast my memory back to draw all the pieces and parts that went to making a working blacksmith's shop. I had one hell of a time drawing that post vise. I then went on to draw a couple of block planes, chisels, saws, drills, pegs and screw vises for woodworking. I recalled seeing a steam-powered sawmill in operation. It took me several days to remember what all the controls, gears and chains did. I also drew out all the pieces of a Franklin stove, down to the ash-shaker.
Within an amazingly short period of time the magic number of two hundred people were walking around and meeting every day for dinner, conversation and supper. Soon we were pushed towards and drop date. Our hosts were anxious to leave on the next leg of their journey.
A week before leaving we were given inventories of what would be dropped with us.
Four of us were taken aside and given instruction in how to use the 'power saws'. They were highly advanced tools with power supplies that supposedly would last several hundred years. Un powered, they were thin rods attached to handles. When powered they became lances of energy that would cut through wood, stone, steel, earth and glass. Virtually anything. The rods could be adjusted from several inches long to about thirteen feet. The lance could be adjusted from about a quarter inch in diameter to nearly six inches across. The material affected didn't just disappear--it became a fine dust. I held one in my hand and thought about the metamorphic rock cliff we'd been shown next to our drop point. Instant cave, carved to order!
I was very happy to see large sacks of seed in our inventory, as well as hand tools such as hoes, rakes, sickles and wheelbarrows. I saw long rods of metal with split tips in the inventory. I immediately thought of how to build a smoke house using squared-off timbers and long holes drilled by the saws. Thread a bar through them and split the tips--instant wall or roof. I found S-hooks and chain, pots and pans, lance tips and gambrels. The Franklin stoves were listed, but fashioned from an exotic alloy that would resist any oxidation or chemical reaction. Someone had obviously thought that music was a necessary part of culture because several types of instruments were included. Several tons of salt were to be delivered in wood barrels. I wondered to myself where they got the templates for the wood barrels? They were not easy to manufacture even with the right tools. There was so much cord listed in the inventory that I was convinced that someone had slipped a decimal point.
I was very glad to see scaffolding included. We'd need it to properly dig a cave with a load-bearing ceiling and to work with timber-frame construction. Many, many five gallon containers of wood adhesive and construction adhesive were also provided. I was amazed to see that everything I'd drawn out was provided. It was too bad nobody else had been sketching. I was certain that I'd missed some very important things.
We were given foot ware and gloves, hats, waterproof ponchos, belts and various accoutrements such as spoons, forks, knives and pouches for the belts.
We were given a sonogram of the cliffs next to our drop point and herded aboard the shuttle.
As soon as the doors opened we were ushered outside. I just stood there, savoring the air. It was sweet, cool and refreshing. In comparison the air on the ship had been washed, scrubbed, ionized and neutralized until it was as uninteresting as possible. The air we breathed once on the ground was alive with possibilities, hints and suggestions. It was local morning.
We found a long row of freight containers that looked as if they'd just been dropped off the back of a fleet of railroad cars. I noted that our inventory had a row of numbers in one column. Each trailer had a number painted on one of the doors. I assumed that was our key. The other three fellows with saws got together with me to plan our next action. We looked over the map of the cliff and found our location by using landmarks and streams. Each of us started in with a finger drawing out a structure we could live with. I suggested that we tap the roof of a buried stream for accessible water that wouldn't freeze. We agreed on a central cave that we could eat, live and work together in, surrounded by smaller family caves slightly elevated from the main cave's floor. A draft hole would have to be planned for the smoke to escape, and chimney holes for the stoves would likewise have to be dug. We started working as team, digging and hauling away the rock. The sharp-edged shards were piled in a fence line some eight feet tall surrounding a fair-sized space outside the cave entrance. Within hours we had a small cave dug. We kept checking the plan as we went to make sure that we didn't do anything irrevocable. A rectangular hole above the doorway was cut out so that we could glue in six rows of glass blocks to provide a bit of natural light.
We carefully opened up the underground stream, insuring that if it flooded it had a pool to flow into, some two feet deep and quite large. It would have made a great community bath but the water was too damned cold. We erected the scaffolding to continue digging out the domed ceiling. When we were finished, a thin point was located and drilled through. That gave us a short-term smoke flue.
Others had gone out with a 'power saw' and a couple wheelbarrows to get firewood. Another team was unpacking a few stoves and kitchen gear. I carved out flat slabs of stone which we stacked to make work tables around the kitchen area. We installed four stoves. Then it seemed obvious to dig sleeping shelves where the side caves would be, so people would be a bit warmer away from the ground currents at night. I carefully sculpted slopes up to each shelf. We'd been given pallets and blankets to sleep on. They were laid out. We quickly came to understand that we'd have no light after the sun set.
We brought in several buckets to use at night, as nobody wanted to leave the cave after dark, at least before we explored a bit and reduced the neighborhood predator count. A team of us both cleaned up the walls a bit and built up a door at the cave mouth for the night. The silence was eerie.
The next morning we cut another rectangular opening in the wall near the cooking area. A wide window of glass blocks was installed twenty units long by six units tall. After a breakfast cookie I went back to digging out sleeping caves with raised shelves for both storage and sleeping on. Then I went outside to figure out how to build a door for our cave. A stone door with a side pivot would be too unwieldy to open and close by a single person. A wider door with a central pivot would work nicely. Our 'power saws' could drill the pivot hole, but they were of limited length. We built the door in three thick sections and glued them together. The door was thinner at the edges, like stretched-out diamond. Still, the edges were some three inches thick.
Our fence made a good start at enclosing all the trailers. I looked around at what had been done in just one day. It was easy to see that our strength and endurance had been enhanced. We'd no doubt pay for it in the need for more food.
I walked around with my saw, looking for some lighter-colored stone. I wanted to make benches to sit on and put a lighter colored top surface on the tables for better contrast. I went back to the cave to look at the sonogram. I found what appeared to be a belt of quartz. I assembled a team. We had our lunch cookies and headed out to find that quartz.
It didn't take long. it was pretty obvious as it was a slip surface along which the cliff had sheared long ago, leaving a plate of tough, white quartz behind. I carefully carved off one inch thick sheets, enough to make table-tops and bench-tops for all of us. We spent the rest of the afternoon carrying them back.
A team had gone hunting. They had taken Atl-Atls. Regrettably, they hadn't had any chance to practice with their weapons. After the first miss, they spent the rest of the day becoming more proficient with them. They managed to come back with four quadrupeds. The next day they planned to split up into four hunting teams with others that had not had any weapons practice.
I suggested that rather than go out as hunting parties, they go out as mapping and discovery parties, taking out every large carnivore in the area that they could. We needed to know where to plant our fields, keep our 'domesticated' animals and birds, scout out mineral and clay resources and a host of other things, those being at the top of the list. No, the great hunters had to play at being heroes. I quietly asked some of the others what would happen when our hunters had depleted the local game. Where would we go? Would we have to move to follow the herds? What the hell happened to our strategies and plans?
Well, all hell broke out that evening when the hunting teams returned. A veritable storm of criticism threatened to come down on my head. I told them "Fuck this. I didn't sign up for the whipping boy position. I'm out of here." I took a shovel, a large bag of survival cookies, a barrel of salt, a canteen of water, a handful of lance heads, a flint-and-steel kit, a 10x12' canvas tarp, a massive hank of cordage, an iron cooking pot with a lid, a wood chisel, a hammer and a rolled up pallet, all loaded onto one of the wheel-barrows. I also took one of the 'power saws' since I was one of the few that had been given instruction in its use. I already had a notebook and a couple of pens. Several objected to my "removing a critical resource from the colony". I shook my head and kept walking. It was a duplicated resource that was virtually indestructible. Politics was already rearing its ugly head.
I sat down to try to visualize the sonogram of the cliff. It didn't show enough. I found a crevice in the cliff wall that looked promising for the night. The saw dished out a little shelf for me to sleep on. Did I mention that digging with the saw tended to make dished sections of stone with razor-sharp edges? I piled a few of these shards of stone across the entrance and bundled up in the tarp for the night. I was still too close to the others to relax. If any of them egged each other into a posse there'd be a hunting party sent out for me. It couldn't help but escalate into warfare with me as the probable loser.
In the morning I looked up the crevice as a possible escape route. It seemed to climb some fifty or sixty feet up. I used the saw to carve foot-holds out on alternate walls. It was tricky climbing while wielding that damned saw at the same time. I eventually got to the top where I found a large rolling plain covered in grass and forest. I crawled back down where I fastened the barrow to a heavy cord. I lifted it up and over the edge of the plateau. I followed the shape of the land until I broke out of the rolling land and underbrush to find a broad expanse of field. A heavy forest bordered the field to my left with a large pond which I couldn't see across to my right. A wide stream flowed into the pond from a broken limestone hill A large boulder lay at the edge of the forest. It was roughly cubical, and was over forty feet on a side. It screamed, "HOUSE!" to me. It was made of a dirty-white stone that didn't seem to have the grain of limestone.
I walked around to the forest-facing side of the boulder, which angled in from the top to the ground by about four feet. I smiled. It would make a great protected doorway. I took my time. I formed the entranceway, carved a couple steps up, formed a doorway and started cutting a flat floor and walls. I made a cavity then dug a small hole about head high to the outside. I used this to gauge the thickness of the walls I left. I tried to make them a foot thick to minimize mistakes while digging the place out. I used a lance head and a piece of cord as a plumb bob to try to keep the walls true. I used a stick to keep the walls from wandering. By measuring both inside and outside with the stick I figured out where the corners should be. I took sights from the doorway to try and make ninety degree angles that agreed with the outside walls. It was kind of a two-pin theodolite that sat on a center peg. I drilled a small hole straight up to the next floor to transfer the theodolite base marker, and then again to the third. Afterwards I plugged the holes with wood pins that I hammered in. I made the ceilings about eight feet from the floor, and carved broad ovals in the walls up near the ceiling. I left one corner thick, un carved. So far I had cleared out the bottom half of the rock. In the corner I carved a raised fireplace with a narrow arched opening. I reached my hand inside it with the saw to made a cone-shaped smoke hood. Then I adjusted the control to expand the rod to its maximum dimensions and drilled a vertical hole to create a smoke pipe. It didn't go anywhere near through the top of the boulder. It wasn't long enough. I had to be careful not to wiggle it around as it would carve progressively larger conic sections out of the rock, ruining it for my use. I used a wood jig that let the weight of the handle seek the bottom then switched it on.
All the stone detritus was put into a large pile a little ways into the forest. I didn't want those sharp edges laying around to slice into unwary feet.
I went outside to do a little rough carpentry. I cut down a thick tree, about four feet in diameter. When it fell I thought that it would take forever. From the foliage it was some kind of oak. I first cleaned up a long portion of the trunk, carving the bark away from it and shaped it into a giant beam. Then I sliced out angle cuts, making rectangles about two inches thick. I used a measuring stick to get the size of the doorway, then carved out a solid wooden door. next I made a primitive ladder out of a two-foot-wide beam some six inches thick. I cut foot holes in it and propped it up under where I wanted to make an access hole to the second floor.
I dug out the second floor just like I had the first, including the windows up near the ceiling line. I tried to leave a foot of stone between the first and second stories. Then I did the same thing for the third story. I made a big ladder and used a string to measure the height of the cube. Then I used a measuring stick to get a good feeling for the height of each floor that I'd hollowed out and the waste space. I didn't have enough stone overhead to dig out a fourth story without breaking through.
When it came to making the second floor fireplace, I prayed like hell that I had my proportions right. When I formed the base structure I found the hole that I'd dug from below. Now I had to continue the flue up through the ceiling. I flipped the power saw straight up, adjusted it for maximum range an diameter, then turned it on. I hoped that I now had a flue that would extend to the third floor. I did it all again on the third floor, and continued the flue to exit through to the roof. I'd have to cap it with some angled stone slabs, but it should do the job. With some careful work smoothing the sides of the second floor fire pit and setting in a stone slab the smoke from below the smoke should be forced up through the flue to the third floor. Another guide slab should force the smoke out through the roof. I climbed back down the ladder and lay on my back with my head in the fire pit. I could see daylight up the shaft. Damn! I'd done it! Next I'd have to take a long straight stick up to the roof and run it down the hole, feeling for constrictions. From above I should be able to cleanly clear and smooth the inside of the flue.
Outside I carved off a few more thin slabs of wood. I laid them over the floor of the house, then upstairs as well. Next I carved larger slabs, roughly seven feet by four, three to four inches thick. I piled them up in one corner to make a sleeping shelf and table. When I decided to get around to it, I'd disassemble the stack, carve out knee-holes in the supporting slabs and re-stack them. I could use coals to burn trenchers out of them. All I'd need would be a straw to blow air over the coals to burn them where I wanted to. I knew the process worked because I'd seen it done with oak burls to make bread-making bowls. I could make drinking cups, bowls and dippers the same way. The straw I could make out of stone with a fine enough touch with the power saw. I didn't see how to make a jig that would let me dig out the inside of a bowl, ladle or drinking cup with the power saw, but I'd keep thinking about it. I'd thought of how to make a jig to make stone straws and pipes. Why not the rest?
I figured out an easy way to block my door, despite not having any hinges or latch. I carved out a beam that ran from the floor and wall junction opposite the door to the CENTER of the door, forming a "T" at the end closest to the door. When leaned against the door, I didn't think a Kodiak bear could tear through it.
I had to cut another door to make all this work, slightly over-size and a bit thicker-four inches thick. I had to carefully leave a horizontal ridge at the center of the inside of the door. The beam had to have something to rest on or it would jam so tight that I'd be trapped inside unless I cut the damned beam into pieces.
When I had to take a dump I realized that I'd not built an outhouse. What an idiot. It was basic sanitation and would keep me healthy. I found a small clearing just inside the woods. I used the power saw on its long, thick setting to chew up and powder all the dirt and detritus to make a ten foot deep hole with three feet of powder at the bottom. It sure beat digging! Up top I covered the hole from side to side with wood beams, then laid thick slabs of wood over the top. I built a traditional little house with a raised seat in the middle, then used the power saw to cut through the floor below the seat for the crap to pass through. I had my out-house. All I was missing was a Sears catalog!
I spent the next few days carving up quite a bit of that tree and stacking the pieces for firewood. I started at the small end to save the larger pieces for projects. I stacked a lot of it upstairs on the second floor where it could dry out of the weather. I decided to make the best of what I'd already built. I carefully carved another flue-cover to almost obscure the entire flue hole on the second floor and made a partition wall across that level with thick beams secured by mortise and tennon joints. They were faced by slabs of wood pinned in place by pegs. I ran a wood framework across and down the wall of the room that had the fire pit in it. I punched small holes in the overhead beams that I could thread with cord. If I ever found or made hooks I could use them they would support quarters of meat. Until then I'd tie the protruding bones to the cords. I figured that it would make a dandy smokehouse once I got the windows sealed.
To do that, I ran some cords down over the ladder and secured them up on the plateau with stakes driven into the ground. Then I climbed down and harvested a several one-inch thick slabs of quartz. I tied them to the ropes and lifted them up to the plateau. Back at the cabin I used a stick to measure the holes. I made sure to get them all the same size. Then I got one window to fit and used it as a template to carve out the rest. I secured them with small holes in the rock wall and slivers of rock. I put the spare quartz aside for later projects.
Next, I had to find a food supply. I saw some decent sized fish in the creek so I built a fish trap with vertical stakes pounded into the river bed. It took a morning with a sapling and some cord to make a dip net. Each morning after that I went down to the creek where I netted the trapped fish. I cleaned them over a slab of wood, threw the guts back in the stream then took the meat up into the smokehouse to dry. I hung them over small leaning poles to smoke and dry over a slow smoky fire.
During the afternoons I stripped down and took my knife into the pond to harvest reeds. Insulating reed mats covered by wood panels to create dead air spaces could go far to keep that cabin habitable over a cold winter. I didn't know how cold the winter would get or how long it would be.