Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rebuilding Stonehenge


I wish I had known it was going to work so well, and go through so many evolutions, because I might have been able to make an fairly interesting video of it. I still could if I wanted to backtrack all the work, but maybe on the next one I’ll find a camera operator.

The idea that aliens or some extraterrestrial force might have helped build some of the great wonders of the world is fairly ridiculous, and doesn’t address the ingenuity of human beings when they have something to do and very little to do it with. I’m pushing fifty, have little or no upper body strength when it comes to moving weighs, and so when something large falls down in the yard I have to cut it up into pieces before I can move it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds with a chainsaw, but easier than trying to move a whole tree. Yet there are some pieces of trees that not even chainsaws, or at least my puny eighteen inch bar chainsaw, can cut through. There is a very large piece of Oak, about seven feet long, four feet in circumference, and knotted because it came from the truck branched out, that said chainsaw cannot reduce without the real risk of getting stuck. Because it weighs several hundred pounds there isn’t any chance of my truck dragging it anywhere without a serious chain or rope, and besides, what’s the fun in that?

It’s smaller on one end than the other, so I could rock it up and down, back and forth, and move it around a bit, but as far as getting any distance, that wasn’t going to happen. I thought about making a sled of some sort, attaching it to some sort of basket made out of fencing and putting two dogs pulling on one side until it shifted, and then me pulling on the other until we got it into the firepit. That would require training the dogs to pull, which is a great idea actually, but that doesn’t get things done today, does it?

Believe it or not, you can put an amazing amount of weight in a wheelbarrow, if you can just get it upright and balanced. I did that with the last dead Oak I moved, and I was able to balance pieces of the tree off the trunk of the dead tree over the wheelbarrow, set them down on top, then shift the weight off the trunk until it was balanced, and move pieces of wood that weighed a couple of hundred pounds and were eight or nine feet long. As long as the tire holds out, and you can balance the load, you will not have a problem doing this. But this is a piece that is not going to balance easy, and getting it into the wheelbarrow would not be half the fun. I did consider it. I thought if I got it positioned just right I could use a fencepost as a lever, and push the wheelbarrow up with the piece of wood tied down on top of it. But for the lack of a fulcrum….

Fence posts. The smaller end of the piece of wood allowed me to wedge a fence post under it, and that created the fulcrum I needed to life the heavy end up a bit? So? Ah, but then I took three more fence posts, created a small but uneven pyramid, with the top leaning against the heavy end of the piece of wood. As soon as I pushed down on the lighter end of the piece of wood, the pyramid collapsed, and one of the fence posts rolled under the heavy end of the piece of wood.  I then took the other fence posts and line them up long ways in front of the piece of wood, and pushed from the back, rolling it from post to post, with nearly no effort at all.

That was fairly, easy, no? One man, five fence posts, and a piece of wood I could have lifted with three other guys, well, five other guys with my strength. But I had a little problem getting the wood to go from post to post because some of them where different sizes, so I took a metal gate, and wedged it under the piece of wood, creating a much smoother surface to roll along the fence posts. I had to push more slowly now, because with the fate rolling along the posts, even with the massive weight of the wood, it zipped along nearly too fast!  I was able to move it from where my shed is, to where the firepit is, is far less than an hour, by myself. If I would have had someone in front of the sled moving the posts, and more posts, we could have pushed four or five hundred pounds of weight without very much effort at all, as far as we would have had to push it. If I can get Lucas harness trained I can get him to stop and pull as I move the posts so if I have to do it again, it won’t be a problem.
Humans become more and more helpless as they have more and more tools to do a given job, to the point once they have everything they need to work with, they are unable to do anything at all. The right tool for the right job sometimes means taking what you have in front of you, and doing what you have to do with it. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t know they couldn’t do it. They didn’t know they needed heavy equipment, they didn’t know they needed steel cable, and they did not have any artificial deadlines like the ones we attach to everything on earth these days.
Can I explain to you how they built Stonehenge? I can offer you one piece of advice; one man can move a lot more than you think he can, with a lot less than you’d suspect he needs.

Take Care,
Mike

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