View Full Version : Another great read: "Cache Lake Country"

12-17-2008, 06:45 PM
Forgive me if this has been recommended before, but I didn't find it.

The book is John J. Rowland's classic, CACHE LAKE COUNTRY, in which the illustrations by Henry B. Kane are almost as informative and delightful as Rowlands' writing. It purports to be an account of a year in Rowlands' life, living somewhere south of Hudson Bay. (In later years, he lived in New England.) As he tells the story of that year, he explains how he made all of the things he needed to live in the North Woods. Here are two brief excerpts:

Excerpts from CACHE LAKE COUNTRY, by John J. Rowlands, Illustrated by Henry B. Kane. Copyright 1947, 1959 by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, N.Y. Paperback published by Countryman Press, 1998.

During the usual April rainy spell I put in some time getting things fixed up for the summer. I made myself a new table from three boards, two pieces of split birch log, and some seasoned birch saplings for legs. I plan to make some benches the same way to go with it. That will mean company won't have to sit on the nail keg. The only tricky part is to bore the holes in the logs at the proper angle so that the legs will set just right. The best way is to lay the pieces on the floor, make a wooden templet or guide of the angle, and use it to start each hole.

While I was working on the bench Hank came over and got an idea that he would try his hand at making some candle holders out of tin cans. You've probably seen some of them before. They come in handy and a candle is a pretty safe light to have in a house, especially if you have to carry it around at night, which is not safe to do with a kerosene lamp. What is more, a candle is almost certain to go out if it drops on the floor. I save the ends of all burned candies, melt them up and pour them into a jelly glass, first setting a wick of string in the glass by tying the top to a twig that rests on the rim of the glass. This kind of candle lasts a long time.

Hank sometimes makes his own candies by molding them in the bark slipped off a small decayed birch sapling. You often see birch rotting on the ground in dark places in the woods and if it has been there long enough the soft wood can be pushed out, leaving a nice mold for a candle. You make a little wooden plug with a hole in the center to hold the wick in place. Stick the plug in the bottom of the birch tube, tighten up on the string, and tie it to a twig across the top. Then all you have to do is pour in your melted wax and when it's hard run a sharp knife down the side and strip off the bark. A piece of bark about hoe-handle thick and four inches long is easy to clean out and makes a candle of the right size....


The Chief, Hank, and I have been having a wonderful time building a crystal detector radio receiver. It all began when a friend of ours, Mr. Beedee, a radio engineer, came up for a week's rest last fall and got an idea it would be a real achievement to build a radio from the odds and ends of material you could find lying around a camp in the north woods. Of course, we couldn't expect to find materials to make earphones, but he thought if we worked hard enough we could dig up the rest. Before he left he made a diagram for a set and said he would send the earphones. So we started a search for parts.

It was like one of those scavenger hunts you hear about. When the three of us put all our findings together we had some pieces of well seasoned pine board, various bits of metal, two or three dozen brassheaded tacks, an empty spool, a handful of assorted screws, and an old cardboard salt box.

The two main problems were the tuning coil and a variable condenser. Following Mr. Beedee's diagram we found we would need about 150 feet of insulated copper wire. Any size between number 22 to 28, or even finer, would do. For a while it looked as if we were not going to have any radio, but Hank got an idea and we snowshoed over to the old abandoned mine to see what we could find there. As luck would have it, in one corner of the blacksmith shop where it had lain for nigh on to twenty years was an old ignition coil once used for firing a gas engine. I certainly was excited when I pulled that thing apart and saw what was inside. Sure enough, there was a winding of fine wire, just the kind we wanted.

The salt box turned out to be just the thing for winding our coil on, so we cut off one end four inches long and soaked it in melted candle wax so it wouldn't take up moisture. Then we began winding, beginning one-quarter of an inch from one end of the box and put on a total of 166 turns. At the start of the, winding we anchored the wire by passing it back and forth through three pinholes punctured in the cardboard tube so the wire wouldn't slip. Every seven turns we twisted a little loop to make a tap until we had eight of them. Then we wound on 40 turns without any taps. From then on to the end we made, a tap every ten turns, scraping off the insulation on each tap to make a good connection. Those taps, connected by short wires to the switch points, make it easy to use any desired number of turns on the coil to tune in a station....

12-17-2008, 07:09 PM
A fine old classic, good suggestion!

12-17-2008, 07:13 PM
Thanks, I'll have to look this up:)

12-17-2008, 10:07 PM
That one was already on my list of books to buy. It just moved up a few notches. Mac

12-18-2008, 08:30 AM
Very timely, I've been reading this for the past couple weeks now.

11-28-2009, 12:59 PM

I build radios like that. In a circuit like that I would expect to get 1-3 stations depending on the antenna length.

I'll have to read that book.

11-28-2009, 04:38 PM
I'll throw in on that recommendation. Cache Lake has been one of my favorites for many years. I've probably re-read it more than any other book.

For those not familiar, John was living as a timber cruiser in Canada in the first half of the 1900's, and had a very interesting life while he was out there. Most of their travel was by canoe, and dog team in winter, with some walking trips out to "the settlement". He lived near an old Indian guy he knew, and Henry Kane, the photographer/illustrator. His life there would be my baseline definition of "bushcraft". Not exactly a "step by step how to" book in all aspects (tho there's a fair bit of that sort of thing), but has a remarkable amount of information and knowledge in it. Excellent read.

11-28-2009, 06:38 PM
Thanks does anybody have a copy for sale or lend to me for a while? PM

11-28-2009, 06:43 PM
dittos on cache lake country. one of my favourites. as far as finding a copy for sale check abes books or amazon.

11-28-2009, 07:50 PM
This is a wonderful book. My mom gave it to me for christmas when I was in high school. I read it stright thru. Read it once again a few years ago. Gonna have to get it when I go down to visit her. If you dont have this book you are really missing out. A great chronicle of everyday bush life.