NALMC
Northwood Area Land Management Collaborative

Leopold Bench Building Workshop
 
October 1, 2011
NALMC Kiosk at Harmony Hill Farm
 
On Saturday, October 1st, 18 hardy souls gathered in the drizzling rain at the NALMC (Northwood Area Land Management Collaborative) kiosk at Harmony Hill Farm to build benches. Though the weather was dreary, the coffee was hot, the homemade pastries were delicious and there was a vibrant, barn-raising atmosphere. At the end of the day, all that was left of the 3 hemlock trees that were donated from the NALMC neighborhood was a small pile of sawdust, a few scraps of sawn wood, a few remaining slabs and 22 beautiful Leopold benches.

This workshop was inspired by the simple, yet elegant four-board bench design that came to Aldo Leopold, a pioneer of ecosystem land management, in the. 1930s at his farm in Baraboo, Wisconsin. As demonstrated in the film ‘Green Fire’ (a documentary about Leopold’s Land Ethic), Leopold’s distinctive slant-back bench design is extremely efficient and results in very little wasted materials

In order to transform trees into building materials, Jesse and Tony Matras brought their portable band saw to saw the logs into 2x8’s and 2x10’s. What was not sawed into boards was left as bark-covered slabs for the backs of the benches so that all parts of the logs could be utilized with little waste. Local woodworker, Steve Winchester, then used the template he created to teach the group how to assemble the benches.

As the group worked to assemble benches, no one talked about Leopold directly, but the event was a living example of the ideals of his Land Ethic. "There are two things that interest me," Leopold said, "the relation of people to each other and the relation of people to land." On that Saturday morning, friends and neighbors worked together to build benches from trees in the NALMC neighborhood, in order to give them to others to share and enjoy.

It is the hope of the NALMC neighbors that these benches, placed in inviting locations, will give people a chance to sit in rustic comfort to observe and reflect on the land, the people, and their delicate connection that was central to Leopold’s legacy. In his opinion, everything comes down to people in the end - cooperating to achieve shared goals, educating each other about different possibilities, and working together to bring ecological dreams into reality. In the same spirit as NALMC’s refrain, "Working Together Across Our Stone Walls," this hands-on workshop illustrated how deeply connected the goals and values of NALMC are with those of Leopold’s Land Ethic. Among the workshop attendees were members of The Friends of NMSP, the Northwood Crankpullers, the Fairpoint Pioneers, State of NH DRED, Northwood Conservation Commission, and many private landowners from the NALMC neighborhood.

The benches will be placed at the Northwood Town Hall, the Chelsey Memorial Library, Northwood Meadows State Park, and along the 5-mile NALMC hiking trail that starts at Harmony Hill Farm. It is the hope of the NALMC neighbors that the good will and fellowship that created these benches – plus Leopold’s original inspiration for their shape and strength – will inspire all those who take rest.

Appeared on the front page of the October 19th edition of The Suncook Valley Sun

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