Not that I am all that ancient by any stretch of the imagination, but at the weathered age of 69 years, the mysteries associated with the opening of allowing light into the camp after a winter solstice always present a challenge. And if not, then you don’t have a camp – maybe a fancy lodge or a motel room, but for sure not a camp. Naturally, the three variables are the winter’s length, the winter’s snow load, and the winter’s temperatures and invariably none of this stand alone; they must be considered together for each affects the other.
For example, if the ground freezes too fast and too deep before the first appreciable snows have a chance to insulate the frost line, chances are decent that the camp’s underpinnings (pilings) will heave from the ice beneath them and if that occurs the doors will be off-kilter, the windows will begrudgingly stay jammed and there might be a raised board or two in the floor. The lifting and shifting power of ice underneath a camp cannot be over-stated. For these reasons it makes good sense to do everything possible to divert water away from all sides of the camp.
The two most important tools a camp owner can carry in his vehicle is a chainsaw and a 2,500 lb come-a-long with a couple hundred feet of nylon tow strength rope. Nothing worse can start off a trip back to camp than a fallen tree across the road or camp ingress. I can’t begin to count how many times I have had to clear a tree (usually a Black Spruce) that had succumbed to stiff winds or heavy wet snow. And in the likely event you eventually do some day get stuck, the come-a-long will prove to be your best friend. Just as diverting water away from your camp is the smart choice, so is clearing away any possibility of a tree falling on your roof. I have seen camps so nestled under a canopy of trees, I thought twice about accepting an offer to stay the night lest a wind gust cause a tree or limb to crush the ridgeline. Other than the aesthetics of hoping to spot a yellow-bellied sapsucker or a spotted owl standing guard over the camp, I opt to situate my camp in a clearing, thus allowing breezes to sweep the cabin with plenty of sunlight, but especially with not throwing caution to the wind by taking a chance that a tree can ruin the camp.
And then there are the critters. Bats, field mice, hornets, and nuisance red squirrels and in some instances, carpenter ants and termites generally fill out the bill. Though field mice are a way of life, no one relishes opening a drawer of flatware to discover a mouse nest complete with droppings, not to mention nests made during the off-season in folded clothes and especially in mattresses.
I can recall as a kid my Dad and a couple of NH Fish & Game men gathering a few good sized snakes which lived in the fields surrounding the Pete Blodgett camp and transporting them into the camp before they hibernated, the idea being that they would control the rodent population which they did very nicely. As a seven year old, I remember lying on a hard mattress listening to the men play cards and looking up to see a snake or two droop lazily as the warmth from the woodstove carried pipe smoke upward somewhat anesthetizing them in their ridgepole lookouts.
This solution began to find more and more disfavor with the fairer sex who were establishing a beach-head in previous unchartered territory, hence the advent of DeCon with more ‘sophisticated’ approaches. As wives and sweethearts insisted on seeing for themselves where their significant others were hanging out on weekends trying to shake the effects of ‘trout fever’ there began the deterioration of what had been almost exclusively the most honorable and time honored “Sportsmens” retreats since the days of the Founding Fathers.
What most camp owners do these days is scatter moth balls which emit an ammonia vapor into their woodsheds underneath and around the edge of the camp. The idea of course is to discourage these furry creatures from wanting to get near any camp openings. In the event they do, however, a good idea is to take advantage of modern technology and strategically place poison bait bars in places where mice might wander. The idea is to satisfy their appetites without inviting them inside.
As for hornets, nail their nest with a 15 foot stream of hornet spray after they enter their nest at the close of day. Hornets will not attack you in the dark of the night so that is the best time to eradicate them and you need not develop any sense of remorse in so doing.
Medieval chicanery notwithstanding, bats are easy to transplant and they have redeeming qualities so it’s best to live and let live in their instance. If they are in your camp attic, it is because they have a nest there, or looking to build one. Block their route of entry. You can easily do this with the use of screen, if ventilation is a concern. You must plug any and all holes smaller than 1/4th the diameter of a dime. For those bats that come down your chimney or stovepipe make sure the damper is closed and if your woodstove does not have a stovepipe damper, make sure that the air flow intake control on the woodstove door is closed tightly. The first woodstove christening in the spring quickly reminds them that their winter home has come to an end and it’s high time for them to get to work keeping the mosquitoes at bay. If there is a bat in the woodstove chamber, light a rolled column of newspaper and open the woodstove door just wide enough to stuff the lit newspaper into the chamber. No bat in his right mind wants to hang around and out the top of the roof they will fly. A friend once donated a bat house which I tacked to a tree and the bats made a home of it within a night or two.
Keep in mind that a little common sense goes a long way and to quote someone much smarter than me “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”