Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I could do this! The Leopold Bench



Aldo Leopold's Sand Country Almanac is, along with Thoreau's Walden, a classic in American ecological literature. In it, Leopold (1887-1948) --who founded the field of Wildlife Ecology, was instrumental in establishing the first official "wilderness area" in the United States (the Gila National Forest), and helped to create The Wilderness Society--recorded the passage of seasons as he and his family renovated what was a worn out, depleted farmstead on sandy river soil. It is now considered one of the earliest examples of an ecological restoration.

On weekends away from Aldo's post at the University of Wisconsin, they planted native trees and flowers and noted the doings of animals and birds and slowly remodeled the chicken coop (which was filled with frozen manure when they first got the farm) for human habitation; it is now the only chicken coop on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still called simply 'the Shack', and the site is preserved by the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Tours are available May through October.





(photo from the digitized collection of Leopold's papers at the University of Wisconsin)


That's the bench on the right. They're still common in America at church camps and summer cabins, and only require a few simple cuts. I'm no carpenter, but I think even I could do this. Recommendations gleaned from the internet are to alter the plan slightly by using a four foot board for the seat (more room for a companion!) and utilizing a wider board for the seat. We're bigger people, on average, than in the thirties.




Simple instructions available at the US government's EPA site. In the spirit of Leopold, make it from recycled lumber if you can.

5 comments:

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

Leopold benches are ubiquitous in Wisconsin, which is probably not surprising. I've been to The Shack with a small university group and we were allowed inside where we sat and talked and heard a short lecture. It is, indeed, a shack and a very small one at that. One is amazed at the primitive life the Leopold family lived when they were there.

On March 7, I have been invited to again participate in "Madison Reads Leopold" where people read aloud from Leopold all day long. People in cities all over the state do this each year. The Madison reading will be at the UW Arboretum in a beautiful room with floor to ceiling windows looking out to Leopold's other great achievement: the Arboretum, which includes the oldest restored prairie in the world.

Timothy said...

Thanks for this cool story about Leopold's bench and also the Helvetica garden.

And I LOVE the idea of a Day long reading of Leopold's writings. What a cool Mad City activity!

Good luck with your writing life.

Best fishes,

Timothy

Marty Ross said...

What a wonderful bench, I already am quite sure that I need several of these. Thank you for your pretty picture, and for the link to the plans. I am going to introduce this bench to the quiet spot under a big old cedar tree in our field of native trees and grasses in Virginia. There I'll sit and read Leopold aloud, so the bluebirds can follow along. Marty

brother-john said...

I built two of these in just a couple hours.They are sturdy enough for me to sit or stand on and I'm over three hundred pounds. However, they are not the most comfortable chairs I've ever made. For longer sitting sessions its hard to go wrong with adirondak chairs.

EagleGreen said...

Arcady. . .finding your blog is the high point of my day. I live on the edge of the Aldo Leopold, and Gila Area Wilderness, in Silver City, NM. Up on the highway (180 N.) there is an Aldo Leopold overlook of a dramatic pass in the Mogollon Range. And, here in town, there is an Aldo Leopold Charter school. Other than that, I've not heard much about him in the 5+years I've lived here. To find out about this bench just 'tickles' me. I love doing woodwork from 'recycled' wood, and am going to see how I can manage building these, or a similarity, from what I find available--which otherwise goes to the dump! Thank you again. And, I've never heard of someone with your credentials, but how fun! I love what I've seen so far of your church design ideas, and have a lot more I want to read of your previous blogs! THANK YOU! Gale (PS. I lived in N. MN for 25 years before moving here.)

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