Archive for the ‘Farm Visit’ Category


How I wish I were back at the Farm right now.  Just look at the grass starting to green up, the trees yet to push leaves, still waiting for the days to lengthen enough to be safe from sudden frost.  Someday soon, I’ll live each day of each season there, noting the subtle changes in every living thing as the planet hurtles back around its yearly orbit, tilting the Northern hemisphere once again toward the burning star that makes all this wonderful stuff happen.

I have 30 days left over here in this East African desert; 44 days to being boots on ground right there (points to photo), in the middle of that very pasture, surrounded by the green grass and budding trees that wait patiently for me.  Oh, my farm is my lover, my waiting woman, beckoning me home with graceful arms and bountiful curves, life springing from her soils and grasses and forests and creeks.  How I yearn for her presence, her sounds, her smells, her touch.

This trip I will rescue the corral from certain death by weathering.  It was assembled perhaps 8 years ago, used only once, and put up too close to the Big Pond.  The panels are rusting and in dire need of a new coat of paint; I’ll attend to that then tear the whole thing down and stack ’em in the trees under a tarp, until I’m ready to set it back up again in a better location.  We’ll be there 10 days, so I’ll have time to sand and paint 20 8-foot steel panels.  I hope.

We’ll see if I can get Derril to take some pictures this time, to help illustrate the project story.  Bobby and Alene are thinking of taking a trip to see their kids while we’re there, since our stay is so long; it will be nice to have the Farm to ourselves for a change, and be able to power through the work without keeping a meal schedule or just being dang rude for not coming down off the hill until dark.  I’m bad about that.

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Horselogging School


The dates of this course of instruction fall nicely into the leave period I’ll have after I return home from this Africa deployment.  We’ll make a 10-day working visit to the Farm at the end of May, then I’ll put Derril on a plane back to San Diego and head on over to Virginia for some much-needed training for li’l ole’ Thistledog.  Horses aren’t the only ones that need schooling.

I’m really looking forward to this.  Been getting myself ready physically, too – years ago I could have jumped right out there from a dead stop; nowadays my stamina and strength don’t stick around without being called upon, and I haven’t done much physical labor lately.  So I’m back to weight training and hill-walking to bring myself up to speed.  It’ll pay off for the whole trip, as my project list at the Farm will have me up at dawn and working until daylight fades; got culverts to clean out, road ditches to re-grade, and the corral fence panels to re-paint and move.  Getting strong and tough now will save me a lot of pain later.

One thing I won’t be surprised by is the heat.  After a year in East Africa, my yardstick for comparing hot temperatures is mighty damned long.

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It snowed our first day at the farm – big, fluffy flakes drifting down lazily, unhurried, barely covering the ground.  A pretty sight indeed.  Temperatures hovered near 20 dF both days, but we’d brought lots of layers and hats and gloves, expecting that. 

It was a good working visit, if a little short and cold, but we got all the upkeep and repairs done that we came to do.  Well, almost all…the topmost culvert on the road had filled in but the fill was too frozen to dig out, so that’ll have to wait until the next visit.  But I got all the leaves cleaned out of the upper road ditch, something that needs done every year to keep the drainage working properly, otherwise the water starts to travel downhill out in the road away from the ditch and makes gullies. 

The year before last – 2007 that is – the road was so badly washed out that Bobby had to “fix” it after every rain, but he was just scraping loose fill into the gullies and not really dealing with the underlying problem of the culverts not doing their job and the road grade not working to ditch-cleaning-with-dog-copychannel the water to the side.  So last spring we spent four days digging out all the culverts and grading the steep upper section of road, re-establishing the grade into the side of the hill so the water didn’t take the straight line down the middle.    It held up pretty well, I must say, and he only had to run the box scraper over it once this past year.  The culvert mouths were filling back in, which I expected, but the grade was still intact and it looked like the water was travelling in the ditch like it should.

Raking leaves up on the hill with the light snow falling, listening to the birds call through the forest and squirrels rustling in the leaves as they dashed from tree to tree, I felt deeply contented.  It was slow going in the cold and a long stretch of road, but I was happy to be on my farm, tending to necessary work.  I paused every now and then to walk among the trees, making mental notes about how much to thin and which trees would need removed first.  There’s lots of post and pole material for fences there, as well as some good saw logs out of the bottom of damaged, crooked and crowded trees.  Lots of forest work to do here. 

Wednesday afternoon I spent up on the ladder cleaning the leaves and ice out of the shop gutters, while Derril fixed the big security light on the front of the shop.  Good to get all that done, as Bobby’s knee surgery and arthritis make ladder work quite difficult for him.   He really has no business being up on ladders these days.

The folks are looking at a little house on 5 acres down the road near the Elk Horn turn off; they like this area and don’t want to leave the doctors they’ve established care with.  Their grown children are in Florida and Oklahoma but they don’t want to live in either place.  Alene said they were a little concerned about not having family close by and I assured her we would always take care of them – said they were like folks to us, and she replied we were just like their own children to them.  I can see they’ll always have an attachment to the farm, but would be happy to live close by on a smaller place.  I hope it works out that way.

We left for Virginia to see Jason and the horses early Thursday morning, in the pre-dawn darkness before the folks were even up.  The stars were shining brightly.

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Just updated the Farm Projects page with a summary story of our visit in April ’07 to install an aeration windmill on the Big Pond.  It isn’t the most in-depth story, but I failed to blog about it at the time or write anything down shortly afterward, so I’ve only got two-year-old memories to go on, along with some pictures captured from the video I took while we were there.  My handycam batteries ran low just as we were getting ready to drive the blade section up the hill and put it on the tower;, which was too bad; that would have been a wonderful documentary of the really exciting part of the project.

Next story will better documented from a previous blog post, our pasture renovation project the following August.  I’ll work on that this week and try to get it up before I fly home.

Four days left to scramble all the loose ends together here at Camp Lemonier, get my weekly reports and tasks assigned to helpful folks who can keep them running while I’m gone, and then the long flight home.  We’ll fly to Kentucky during the second week I’m back, to visit and work at the Farm, then a half-day’s drive to Virginia to meet my girls, and Jason and the crew.  I’m beside myself with anticipation.

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