There is a brook on our farm that collects mountain runoff and empties into the undulating Bay of Chaleur. The brook serves as a water source for our family and is a favorite place no matter the area on the farm that we find it. It meanders within a pebblethrow of the cattle pasture through the mixed forest often exposing the root systems of the moisture loving cedar trees that accompany the brook along it’s journey through the farm acreage. It brings the love of nature and the awe of God’s creation into immediate thought as it is difficult to avoid the beauty in sound, sight, and smell that surrounds you while you walk along this watercourse. This experience has led me to follow a lifelong dream to make a trail system on the farm that can be used by visitors and family alike to reconnect to everything nature and farm life has to offer. Family walks were a mainstay for our family growing up and my wife and I continue to do this with our children.
Today’s world is nothing but distractions. Technology especially. I say this as I write a blog on a laptop, however, that comes after many years and hours spent enjoying the great outdoors. Reconnecting with our natural surroundings has been on my mind a lot lately. At Christmas we purchased tablets for our two kids (to be shared with their parents), which have proven a great deal of fun but have also pulled our kids away from spending more time at the farm. In an effort to have our kids share in the experiences we had during our childhood I set out to create an area along our hiking trail where our kids could go and play while I worked at the farm or when I had a spare moment to play with them.
A bridge over the brook was first on the agenda. In the fall of 2015 I promised my neice, Brooke, that we would build a bridge over the brook where we could create a picnic or lounging area in the woods as a safe place for the MacCurdy grandkids to play. We set two 20′ long logs we had recovered on the beach in front of our property across the banks of the brook in the Autumn of 2015, cut the railings and posts and then waited through winter and early Spring to recommence the project.
This Spring came the assembly. Over the course of a few days in mid-may we fastened the pieces together. First we leveled the bridge over the uneven terrain by shimming with 2″ x 6″s. Then I fastened the pieces together in the following steps:
- With 4″ spiral nails fasten the 30″ rough sawn 2″ x 6″ with a 2″ spacer between each across the expanse of the bridge.
- At the beginning, middle, and end fasten 54″ rough sawn 2″ x 6″ lumber to hold the posts and knee braces.
- Using 2 lag screws, fasten the posts at the beginning, middle, and end 2″ x 6″s underneath.
- Cut knee braces out of small 4″ cedar posts and fasten to post and 2 x 6″ with 4″ spirals.
- Using the chainsaw, saw a v-groove at the top of each post to partially recess the railings. The middle post will need a larger v-groove (approx. 4″) to fit two posts.
- Nail the railings using 4″ galvanized spirals.
- Lay down on the bridge and soak in the sights and sounds while the sun shines.
Along the brook we find items of curiosity like purple trilliums, fiddleheads, small tree seedlings and juvenile yellow spotted salamanders. Each species has it’s own lessons to teach us as we explore them in their natural habitat. Some can be eaten, some can be looked at for their color, some can be measure year to year, and some can be observed as they move around their natural habitat. Adding a bridge to the brook allows our kids to safely cross the brook and explore everything our mixed forest has to offer. It keeps learning in the hands of learner.
Yesterday as I pondered ideas for writing this blog, I decided to take a walk to the brook and have a nap on the bridge. A little shut eye from time to time is good for the heart and soul. Listening to the sounds of nature not only put me at ease and took my cares away but it made me realize the wealth of knowledge and discovery that exists at the tip of our senses in our natural surroundings. Nature’s classroom is a powerful educational tool. It might even help us cross some bridges.