By: Wendy Langhans
It was the smoothly carved notch in the wood that caught my
Like many people, I grew up playing with Lincoln
logs, so I’m familiar with the technique of notching logs to strengthen the
corners of a log cabin and minimize the need for protective “chinking” between
the logs. But this was a feed bin,
located inside a barn. Besides, the
notch was horizontal, not vertical. So I
asked our interpretive guide, “Why did the farmer carve that notch here?”
His answer was direct and to the point, “So he could use a
shorter nail. This way he could minimize
the amount of iron he needed.”
Ah, now I saw it more clearly. In that time and place (130 years ago in the backwoods
of Wisconsin), iron was more precious
than wood. By carving out a notch in the
wood, the nail didn’t need to be as long.
It was a perfect example of what my Grandma use to say, “Waste not; want
Nature is nothing if not frugal. We see it in so many ways. In our valley, where water is a precious
commodity, we see a thick waxy cuticle (coating) on the oak leaves, designed to
minimize water loss.
We see how plants disburse seeds by using a “burrs or hook”  to hitch a
ride on the fur of a passing mammal.
And this evening some dusky-footed wood
rat  will be using local materials (dry sticks) to help insulate his home. Our ancestors also used local materials (dry
branches) to build protective fences around their vegetable gardens.
Let’s see: (1)
conserving scarce resources, (2) using mass transit (3) insulating our homes
and (3) reusing and recycling local materials. Perhaps nature has something to
teach us about frugality. Something my Grandma always knew and I am learning to
value more and more.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, August 23, 8:30 AM. Hike at Elsmere
For map and directions to the meeting location at Whitney
Canyon (next to Elsmere
Canyon), click here .
Sponsored by the Community Hiking Club .
Saturdays, August 23, and every Wednesday, 8:00 am.
Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie
and a heart-thumping workout. For more
information contact Steve Ioerger  at
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation
Through the end of August. Wildlands of the Santa
Come to the library 
to see a visual and educational exhibit about our Santa Clara River Watershed
and the 100 endangered, sensitive or threatened species that live in our
Sponsored by South
Coast Wildlands , Visual Journey’s and the Santa Clara River Trustee
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report",
brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the
Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.