The Lean-to

[Charles E. Page Oct. 2003]

It didn't take us long to decide where to build our Adirondack style lean-to. [This was in 1974, two years after we built our new home on Mt. Hope Avenue, Oneida.] It had to be secluded and close by for quick and easy access whether for a weekend, quick picnic, or just a relaxing evening.

We ordered the logs from a mill near New Berlin and started clearing a small area among the trees bordering the three acre secluded meadow south of Mt. Hope. It could be reached easily by foot or by tractor and wagon,

Our chosen area sat in the trees on the rim of a small ravine in the bottom of which a little brook gurgled its way down from the cedar woods above.

The logs had come from the harvest of red pine plantations, established by men in the CCC program in the days of the great depression of the 1930's. The mill had put together "kits" of logs all ready sawn, notched, and flattened on three sides, for different sized lean-to's or cabins. We spiked the 6x6 inch logs together with 10-inch heavy nails driven through the logs with a sledgehammer.A strip of foam insulation laid between the logs served as chinking.

"Getting started 1974"

"Alberta Nailing on Roof Boards Nov. 1974"

"Spring 1975 Alberta & Completed Leanto"

We soon discovered we were not the only ones who had found this particular spot attractive. It happened like this.

The year following completion of the shelter, and the building of an "out-house" to sit [and to sit IN] out back, I decided to plow the meadow. We wanted to kill off the thorn apple and other bushes trying to take over the clearing. After plowing and fitting the soil we planned to encourage "weeds", to grow and become a "wild flower garden". After plowing and dragging, we noticed small pieces of flint scattered on the surface of the soil concentrated in one area very near our building.

We gathered up some, speculating that Indians long ago had picked this spot to camp and make arrowheads. Every rain uncovered more chips, and for several years following we continued to find more. Altogether we gathered probably two or three quarts. Most were just chips, but occasionally we would find an unfinished arrowhead, which had been broken in the chipping process and discarded. We found a few completed arrowheads made of flint or the clearing and around the farm in different fields.

The lean-to provided us, our children, and grandchildren with many good times, camping and picnicking through the years. Each year a phoebe built her nest inside on one of the beams. And often in the middle of the night we would awaken to hear raccoons splashing and squabbling in the brook below us. Their eyes would shine when we turned the flashlight on them.

One evening Alberta and I had moved our small makeshift table out into the clearing to watch the sunset while we ate supper. We were quietly eating when a woodchuck came ambling up the path paying no attention to us. He would stop every now and then and we could see he was eating wild strawberries. All of a sudden he looked up and realized there were intruders in his garden. He turned and ducked back into the trees.

In the late evenings from the floor of the lean-to with our sleeping bags resting on the foam pads, we would lazily watch the fire lick its tongues through various holes in the old stump we had thrown on for the night. When working in the woods cutting firewood, if we saw an old rotting tree stump, we would kick it loose and save it to burn at the lean-to. The odd shapes made an interesting fire to watch.

When Alberta and I were there alone, we would sit by the fire in the gathering dusk, and listen to the nearby songs of wood thrushes and the plaintive, metallic call of a hermit thrush far back in the woods. It felt as if we were in the wilderness, miles from civilization.

Even now nearly 30 years later when in the Spring we hear a wood thrush's evening song, we think of those quiet times at the lean-to.