Posts Tagged ‘Farm projects’

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There is always something that needs done on this farm.  Every day, every week, every month, a slew of tasks and projects both big and small clamor for my attention, each with its share of overall importance.  But their importance is variable, and can change depending on what else is going on; inclement weather and animal concerns, for instance, can quickly demand a shift in attention.  Last week’s big project might have to get sidelined for something that crops up this week.  It is what it is.

As the sole source of manpower I have to constantly consider how best to prioritize my time and energy in order to get done what really needs done, and still preserve my health and sanity.  Every day I start a fresh page in my logbook, mapping out the daily tasks and what I want to get done for the day, working toward a weekly goal that is part of a monthly goal…which I never seem to meet, but it is what it is.  Aggravating, that’s what it is.  But realistic, too.  Because stuff happens, and seasons change, and goals must change alongside.

I used to fight the changes, the sliding of deadlines, the unfinished projects supplanted by another more urgent.  Now, I don’t have any choice but to accept them.  What’s the use of working on something that was supposed to be finished in late summer, when winter is breathing down your neck and half a dozen things need doing before the first hard freeze?  Or the next rain event?

It brings me back to the time-tested strategy I learned long ago from my mentors in the military, where priorities can change from minute to minute with jaw-dropping speed.  It goes something like this:  when faced with conflicting demands on time and attention, always shoot the closest alligator to the boat.  It may not be the biggest, meanest alligator.  It might not be the one you were worried about yesterday.  But it is the closest one, whose jaws and teeth are inches from dragging you into the water and making a meal of you, that deserves the most attention.  And a well-placed bullet to the head, if you’re interested in hunting alligator.

So the barn remains unfinished, the garden was left in disarray after a hurried harvest and awaits cleanup, the gutters need cleaned of leaves before freezing rains lock them with ice, the now-muddy road around the pond needs graveled, firewood must be split and stacked on the back porch, and a myriad of stuff needs to be put away for winter.  They’re all alligators, but they aren’t the closest one.  Just recently, the closest alligator was the coming two-year-old Suffolk colt whose gelding procedure did not go well; infection and swelling required an additional vet visit, medications given daily for 10 days, and a regimen of thrice-a-day walks.  This while I hosted visitors, yet another alligator vying for my attention.

As the horses continue to devour their small stack of square hay bales stored in the little barn that come Spring will become the broodmare’s maternity ward, an unfinished Fall project now becomes the closest alligator:  erecting the 20′ x 24′ clearspan hay structure in the First Pasture, to fill with 600+ bales of hay.  I wanted it done in September, but September was filled with cattle handling and AI, then October focused on barn doors, laying in round hay bales for winter cow feed, and horse training, and November was visitor month.  December; I’ll shoot this alligator before December’s done, I will.  Before the next one swims up closer.  Stay tuned.  I’m serious.


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Two farm trips have come and gone since my last post back in September, and now that I have finally regained my voice here I must say it has been a long three months filled with both tragedy and triumph, and my spirit has been tested.  During the hard parts I could only barely keep pointed in the right direction, and when the pendulum swung back to the bright side I did not have the heart to speak of just the good things happening.  A little hard to explain but that’s the best I can do for now, and must be said however cryptically so I can move on and resume this story.

Better bloggers than I could have kept the thread going throughout; I truly lost my voice and had to trust that it would come back eventually, and that the silence would be understood.   I hope it has, as I’ve missed being here.

I bought this big dually truck in September and we drove him out to the farm this time, three days on the road and mostly through Texas, returning late Wednesday night from Louisville and just missing the torrential rains here in San Diego.    We were pleasantly surprised by the 4 inches of snow on the ground when we rolled into our last fuel stop in Columbia, Kentucky last Tuesday, and despite a couple of days of freezing rains that kept us holed up and the cold temps that kept us bundled up, the week there at the farm was a great success.

Grizzly the Farm Truck is back home in Kentucky now, snug inside the barn with a trickle-charger to keep his big new batteries topped off, and a Kentucky Farm plate on his bumper instead of California’s highway robbery signs.  The year of registration in the Commonwealth will cost a third of what the Golden State would have wanted paid (due again 31 January !) and his insurance is less, too. 

It was touch-and-go on getting the title, which got lost in the CA DMV system, reissued and sent to Taylor County to coincide with our visit.  I made a half-dozen phone calls and talked to some really disgruntled DMV clerks before I realized it wasn’t where it should have been, but the rush reissue arrived (just in time) the day before we had to leave, and I walked out of the county clerk’s office with his new plate and that same huge smile you see in the picture above on my face.  It was a pretty major triumph, since timing is everything with these trips and I could not have gotten him registered without that title getting resent as quickly as it did.

Let me pause here and acknowledge the chuckles about my truck’s name.  Yes, I name every damned thing with an engine, or should I say, they name themselves.   I find it easier to call my vehicles by name, rather than saying “the tractor” or “the big truck.”  And I swear they have personalities, too, so they get names that match.  Griz named himself with his big growling diesel engine and ponderous back-end girth.  It fits, so it sticks.

Along with getting the truck out to the farm and registered in Kentucky, this trip’s major project was building the hearth pad for my little wood stove, which is still sitting out in the barn on the shipping pallet, waiting to be installed where the fireplace once was.  We had removed the fireplace a bit at a time over the past few visits, as it wasn’t exactly a simple demolition nor was it the only project going on.  But this time we finally got all the remnants of fireplace chimney out and I was able to lay the concrete backer board down and tile the corner with slate, with a raised pad for the stove to set on to make loading wood a little easier.

It was a great indoor project for a cold, blustery wintertime visit.  The stones atop the stove pedestal are remnants of the fireplace hearth “stone,” which was really faux stone concrete that I cut apart with a diamond blade saw.  It looks just like stone, so I wanted to save it and re-use it for under the stove, but it turned out to have a core filled with some kind of high-density foam.  Oh, dear, we thought – this won’t work at all.  Then Bear got the brilliant idea to chisel out the foam along the edges of the blocks and fill in with mortar to the level of the concrete parts, making a flat, durable “stone” edge with just a little of the foam core in the middle.  A little duct tape and cardboard for forming the edges and 5# of mortar worked perfectly.  It took more time than I would have liked, but the end result was worth it, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

Here is a picture I found of what the fireplace looked before.  It was pretty useless as a way to warm the house, pulling all the warm air up the chimney with the fire, so the folks never used it, as you can see by the chairs facing away.  It mostly just filled the corner and served as a shelf for knick-knacks.  Their electric bills during the winter, though, reached up past $300 in the coldest months, so I resolved to put a wood stove in for my own use, surrounded as I am by more firewood than I could possibly use in a lifetime.

You can barely see the hearthstone we once thought was four large stones mortared together.  And the “rock” on the face of the fireplace, turned out to be just concrete faux stone, too.  Heavy son-of-a-bitch, that panel was.

The wall behind the stove will be a heat shield, consisting of backer board installed atop 1″ ceramic spacers to create an air space and prevent heat transfer to the combustable wall, tiled with the same slate as the hearth.  Building a heat shield behind the stove allows you to install it closer to the wall – as close as 12″ from the stove back, instead of the 30″ clearance needed without the heat shield.   My stove will sit about 18″ away from the wall, but the heat shield is still a great precaution, especially in a mobile home.  And it will look fabulous, taking that beautiful slate all the way up to the ceiling.

You can see two sheets of backer board leaning against the wall behind the hearth in the photo – what you can’t see is that I had to remove the 1/4″ drywall behind the stove in order to add 2 x 4″ reinforcements between the studs, which weren’t adequately spaced to hang the heavy concrete board with stone tile, mortar and grout added to it.  So, this project will have a second phase, the heat shield wall installation, as well as a third phase, which will be installing a new stove-rated chimney and double-walled stovepipe, and dragging moving the 500 lb stove inside to its permanent place atop the hearth stones.  Here is a stock picture of our stove from the Woodstock Stove website:

I bought this stove two summers ago, when the folks were still living in the little house, and when we spoke about installing it they seemed to think it would be a simple thing to just toss it in the corner.  Bobby actually went out and cut some hickory firewood in anticipation of building fires.  The folks moved to Oklahoma two September’s ago, leaving that stack of hickory firewood to season nicely for my stove fires next year.   As it turns out, these things take time; projects like this don’t get finished (or even started) overnight, and here we are two years later, and I’m just getting the hearth built.  And I’m fine with that, because like I always say to myself, it sure will look good when it’s done.

Back here at Bear and Thistle West, the sun is shining, there’s post-storm cleanup to be done, and I have family coming for Christmas Eve dinner (beef stew and fresh-baked bread – y’all are welcome to drop in!).  It’s time to publish this post and get a move on. 

Merry Christmas to anyone still reading – may your holiday be filled with warmth and love and friendship, and lots of good food!

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Iris cristata

We got back from the Farm late last Saturday night, escaping the onslaught of rain heading up from the South that turned Derby Day into a mudfest.   Of the eight days there, four were entirely rain-free, which is as good as it gets, though we made good use of our time, rain or shine.

My primary project this trip was restoring (sanding, grinding rust, and painting) the 19 corral panels I’d hauled down from the pastures in February and stacked in the shop.   They’d been out in the weather for years, and were rusting in many spots and badly in need of a good coat of Rustoleum paint.  I regret not taking before and after pictures, as the transformation was amazing, and made me feel good about spending the time and effort to do the job right.

I didn’t get them all done, just 7 of the 19, but I’m all set up now with my grinder and sawhorses and techniques, so everytime we visit I’ll try and knock a couple out, so that when I’m finally ready to set up the round pen/handling pen, they’ll be ready too.  What a lot of work it was!  I started by washing them down with a sandpaper sponge to get as much dirt, rust and oxidized paint off as possible, then took the grinder to every last little rust spot, then applied a coat of primer to the bare metal exposed by the grinding, then a lovely green coat of Rustoleum.  Laid horizontal on sawhorses at waist level, the panels were easy to work on, but the enamel paint had to dry overnight or all day in between coats, which was the bottleneck of the whole process.

So I was grateful to get done what I did, and most of it was inside shop work while the rain came down, a very good use of time.

We had a couple of sunny days following the rain, which allowed me to finish pulling fence posts up on the pastures, removing the last of the ill-placed and unused lanes and gates that surrounded the Big Pond.  We never could figure out why the old man had set everything up so close to the pond, the ground was mucky in spots and not even close to level.  I’ll find a better place for a handling pen and loading chute as the design of things unfolds, and yes, it’ll be a lot of work to set it all back up again, but I’d rather do that than keep using a setup that makes no sense and doesn’t work well.

I spent a day fixing and cleaning house and shop gutters, right before the big deluge came, before we left.  Good work to get done before loads of rain arrived.  And we found someone to mow the grass, which is a blog post all in itself, about meeting neighbors and being embraced by the local community.

A good visit, all in all.  My camera came out only once, I regret, to take pictures of wildflowers in late-April bloom.  I think I got lazy about photojournalizing my work projects, which I’m kicking myself for, but the work got done, whether you have pictures of it or not. 

The wildflowers were astonishingly beautiful.  More photos to follow.

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I must admit, I enjoyed the taste of a winter wonderland at the Farm.  My apologies to all of you in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Oklahoma who are still dealing with a super abundance of the white stuff and are sick of it.  We only had a couple of inches there in south-central Kentucky, starting the third day, and it was gone by day six.  Temperatures in the teens and low twenties ensured our winter working visit was sufficiently wintry, requiring the donning of insulated coveralls, vests, multiple hats and gloves for all the outdoor work, but thankfully the snowfall was limited.

The cold kept my photo-documentation of this trip to a bare minimum, I’m sorry to say.  It was too cold and I was too busy to set the camera up for self-shots; too cold also, to get the Bear to lend a hand and work the shutter.  So it goes.  I managed a couple of stomps around to take a few pictures of the wintry roads, the house and shop, the icicle-adorned creek, the snow-frosted pastures and pond, but of the projects and work accomplished, nothing.

I’ll do better next time.  But the work got done, pictures or no.  It was a very good Farm visit.

I had hoped for dry weather and lightly frozen ground so I could chop down the summer’s growth on the pastures with the tractor and bush hog – work that should have been done in September or October, but we had fences to build and gates to hang in September, so the pastures hadn’t been mowed since spring.  Not the end of the world, pastures don’t always need mowed to do well; but the cover is so thick and ungrazed on mine, the dry matter left standing at the end of the growing season is too substantial to break down without some mechanical shredding.  I figured a winter mow, though unorthodox,  might work.

I got lucky this trip.  Conditions weren’t perfect, but I did get all but the little 3-acre west pasture mulched down, ready for the rains to work the chopped material into the soil where it can feed my micro-livestock there.  Unchopped, untrampled forage held above the soil by height or bulk, may take several years to decompose, even in Kentucky’s rain-blessed environment.  Soil contact is essential, and the bush hog does a fabulous job of shredding the grasses and pushing them down to the surface for the new grasses to grow through.  Grazing animals would, of course, be the ultimate pasture management tool, but until I’m there full-time, my little tractor must suffice.

It was a good opportunity to observe the wet areas between the ponds, where surface moisture persists in scattered depressions in all but the driest months.  The folks had mentioned standing water in the fields over the years, but I’d not had the chance to assess the boundaries of where this occurs; this trip I was able to see the acre or so of what may very well be permanent wetland that appears to be spring-fed, draining slowly to either side of the crest of the top pasture into the two ponds.  I will stake it out in the spring when we are back, and let it alone to see what it does through the seasons.  It may be an ideal place for a wetland hedgerow of native plants; though it would take some pasture out of production, there is much benefit to be derived from the diversity of another plant community on the farm.

Before I could start the tractor work, though, we had to drain the hydraulic fluid as it checked white and foamy, indicating water had seeped in.  I believe Bobby had left Jack out in the rain last Fall – old tractors like this aren’t weatherproof, and water will get in unless the housing is covered.  So we did that, along with the rear differential, because the PTO wasn’t disengaging properly and we thought it might be a fluid problem.  It was.  The shop manual sent us on a goose chase for the rear differential’s check plug that ended up being a hidden screw on the side of the housing behind the brake pedals, which had to be loosened and moved out of the way to access the screw.  It didn’t appear to have been opened in a long time.  We drained approximately 6 gallons, and the book said that was the capacity; but filling it took only 5 before the fluid started coming out of the check hole.  The front end loader added to the system probably accounts for the difference.  We think it was overfull the entire time, getting filled to the recommended amount without checking the level, which would explain the constant leakage underneath and the PTO malfunction. 

So a day of tractor maintenance, and evenings cleaning and setting up the shop was time well spent.

Heading up to Louisville on Thursday for our flight home, we had no idea that Dallas had received a foot of snow and the airport had cancelled all incoming flights.  With no TV, no Internet, no national newspaper, and just radio news, which focused on the snow being dumped on the Mid-Atlantic but never mentioned Dallas, it didn’t occur to us to call and check before we left.  So back to the Farm we went, and the next morning’s flight was cancelled too, leaving us with a flight out on Sunday at the earliest. 

I confess I was not very upset to have to return to the farm for another couple of days.  My job list for our Spring trip includes repainting the corral panels that have been sitting out rusting for 8 years or more, so Friday afternoon I was able to get them all moved down to the shop, ready for sanding and rust treatment and painting come April.  Saturday was cold and cloudy with scattered snow flurries, but I bundled up in my insulated coveralls and spent the day taking down (finally!) the barbed wire lanes that surrounded the pond and corral.  Posts will get pulled next visit, and mowing should be infinitely easier without the fences and gate setup that was no longer in use and badly situated to begin with.

Returning to San Diego on Valentine’s Day, the captain announced our descent into Lindbergh Field around 5 pm and noted the temperature:  72 degrees.  I smiled, and thought of the frosty fields, snow-kissed woods and frigid temps we’d just left, and of all the good work we got done.  And the little farmhouse, buttoned up behind the gates and fences, with lights that come on in the evenings, waiting for our return.  I can’t wait to get back.

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fence posts almost

Building a fence out of your own trees isn’t the easiest way to do things.

 My li’l ole fence out front along the road has garnered many compliments because it looks damn nice, and really stands out among the pressure-treated, milled lumber, commercially-installed versions in the area; but its true beauty in my view is its humble, local origin.   And that it was built by my own hands.  From my own trees.

Most folks around here probably think that viewpoint’s a little off.  Too much work, nicer materials right down there at Lowes; why go to all the bother.  I admit, it would have been much easier just to call someone out and pay them to slap something up.  It would have met the minimum objectives as well, which was to keep vehicles from driving up to the house and shop building, thus making the place more secure.

But it wouldn’t have been a thing of beauty, or have the potential to last 25 -30 years like this one will, or given me any of the satisfaction I’ll feel every single time I lay eyes on it and remember how we built it from cedars and hardwoods cut off the hill above. 

Arguments for saving time and effort aside, I’m just not interested in paying someone to do work that I enjoy doing and can do well myself, especially on a project that designs itself as it goes; nor am I at all keen to buy mass-produced, trucked-in, chemically-treated materials when I have raw materials in abundance in my own backyard.

Sounds a little pious, perhaps too idealistic, I suppose.  I will readily admit that this commitment to doing my own work and using my own materials as much as possible has its drawbacks, not the least of which is the multiplication of effort and time in any project equation.  But I’m pretty stubborn, and not afraid of slow, hard work, and so I accept that building something from scratch means doing things “the hard way” with hand tools, sometimes, and a great deal more effort than needed with “modern” methods and commercial materials.

I may not be able to take this approach every time.  The porch, for instance, was built with pressure-treated lumber, after much thought and deliberation about the pros and cons of using non-treated lumber in that climate for that type of application.  But my pasture fences will need to be non-toxic, in the big scheme of operating a certified organic farm, and so this small section was a test bed for my ideas of how to use locally harvested, untreated posts in the Kentucky soil without compromising on fence longevity.

What I didn’t know before Skidder and I took that first walk up the hill to survey for materials, was that I had a good number of mature eastern red cedar trees (Juniperus virginiana) at their climax of growth potential, having been overtaken by taller hardwoods and fairly begging to be made into fence and gateposts before their wood began declining as they lost the battle for sunlight, water and nutrients.   And while this tree is not a true cedar, but a member of the juniper family, it does have superior rot-resistance – especially in the red heartwood – not as much rot resistance as black locust, but more than any other hardwood species I might have had to use.

We took four 8 – 9″ gate posts and nine 6 – 7″ fence posts off the south-facing hill just around the corner from the shop.  I believe I felled a total of eight trees, for the posts.  One was quite large, leaving me a lovely 10-foot timber that will make some fine slabs for sign-making and bench-building.  Skidder pulled most of them down the hill by herself while I cut.  We worked furiously in the morning rain, thinking it might go on all day and wanting to get the logs down to the shop so we could peel them inside.  But the rain stopped as we finished, which wasn’t a bad thing. 

Next:  peeling with spud and draw knife.

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Fencing crew and fence

September, nearly over now, was stacked to the rafters with doubled-up activity; a month that should have been two, in all fairness.  It goes that way sometimes.  I dove in headfirst beginning in early August, planning the Farm trip and project, chasing endless details that shifted priorities like dune edges in the wind, trying, as they say, to keep my eye on the biggest alligator closest to the boat.

Added complexity sprang from the background of an increasing workload at the squadron, fueled by end-of-fiscal-year deadlines and requirements.  It really wasn’t a good time to be away for 10 days, but the timing wasn’t flexible for what needed done.  And so we got it done, and done well, but my reporting of it languished horribly.

Thank you Jeff, for checking in to see if all was well and asking for an update.  I am long overdue.

The fence and gate in the picture above are not the whole story but they represent the satisfactory completion of what we set out to do this visit:  make the property secure for the periods of time we will not be there.  It is good we stuck with this objective, as Bobby and Alene made one more trip out to Oklahoma while we were at the Farm, bid on a house while they were there (telling us nothing about that as usual, until weeks later when their offer was accepted) and have finally, finally, decided to move completely out of the area.  Apparently Alene’s desire to be closer to her kids and grandkids won out over Bobby’s preference for remaining in rural Kentucky.  And so it goes.

My sister found time to travel out from Colorado to help me with the fence and gate project, five working days the likes of which I’d not experienced in quite some time.  We were determined to have both gates and at least a section of fence up before she had to leave, and worked like monsters from dawn to dusk – my gratitude is unending for her contribution of time, talent, and extraordinary effort.  Lord knows I could not have gotten the job done without her help.

For the fence and gate posts we found good-sized cedars in abundance on the south slope just up the road from the shop; I cut and she skidded, earning the nickname Skidder in my post-trip photo captions, and so Skidder is how you’ll know her here.  She brought her camera too, so we were able to capture most of the project from start to finish, from laying out the postholes to hanging the gates and building a log rail fence from my own trees.

My better half pitched in with the breaker bar on some of the gnarly holes – Kentucky has more than its share of rock – and helped me punch the six postholes for the stretch of fence alongside the road; but his major contribution was culvert maintenance, both on the road up the hill and at the driveway entrance to the state road, where July’s flash flood had washed things out and nearly buried the culvert to the creek. 

(One of the great surprise discoveries about my husband is his affinity for running a shovel.  You wouldn’t know it to look at him, you’d think he’d be allergic, but he’s taken on this culvert maintenance thing with an impressive level of initiative, for him.  I do not argue, I praise.  And happily go about my building projects, asking for an extra hand only when absolutely necessary).

The house and shop now has an alarm system installed, with a loud siren that goes off when it’s activated, as well as a monitoring service that calls the local Sheriff as well as my cell phone.  We accidentally tested that feature when Derril showed the folks how the system works; he set it off without calling the monitoring company and a cruiser with a big burly deputy showed up in five minutes.  Nice feeling, that.  I apologized and assured him we would call first next time, but it was good to know the response will be there if and when it’s needed.

I will have to make a quickie trip back out mid-October, once the folks have moved out, to set up the inside timed lights, set the alarm, make sure the gates are all locked, and transfer the electric service over to my account.  Since it’s a rural electric coop, I have to apply for membership in person, and I didn’t get that done this last trip.   Bonus for me:  the leaves will be turning, a sight I’ve never been there to see.

I mentioned pictures and this report is only a snippet of all the fun we had; you can see them all on Flickr by clicking on the “more pictures” link at the right, at the bottom of the B & T Farm Photos strip – then select “sets” on the top of my Flickr page, and look for “Farm gates and fences.”

I’m also going to rework the farm website’s  project page (see A Farm of My Own: Bear and Thistle Farm, at right) and post a detailed description there with photos, as it was a huge learning experience for me and I was delighted with how all the tools performed.  This blog post would be enormous if I were to lay it all out here.

More to follow, then.

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Bobby on the zero turn

I’m not opposed to change.  I think I have by this time figured out that it’s part of life, and not always predictable.  I’ve learned to willingly adapt to change, to shift my priorities and efforts towards whatever new direction lies ahead as a result.  But doing so takes time, me being a plodder and all, and I prefer not to be interrupted by more change before I’ve finished responding to the first wave.

 So the latest news from the farm is actually a blessing, but it left me shaking my head for a couple of days, amazed how things can shift so quickly.

The folks called Friday last week, a month since they’d first dropped the bombshell about wanting to move to Norman, Oklahoma where their daughters and grandchildren live, to ask if it would be ok for them to stay put, instead.  They have changed their minds, and decided they wouldn’t be happy there.  At least for the time being.

We could have told them that, but it wasn’t our place.  They figured it out themselves, at their own pace.

All the reasons why we thought it would be unworkable for them came tumbling out as they talked over each other on the phone:  they can’t find the kind of place they are looking to buy in that area; the dogs, used to roaming the mountain, would have to live in a tiny back yard; they don’t like the kind of people there, there’s not enough open, “country” space, and Bobby would get bored not having anything to do outside; and they like their Kentucky doctors, like living in Kentucky.  Dear old Bobby must have said “I just wouldn’t be happy there” at least 10 times during the fifteen-minute call.

Well hello, McFly.  After driving 13 hours back from their Oklahoma visit, Bobby toted the luggage in the house then hopped onto the Toro mower for a couple of hours to mow the grass, which wasn’t overgrown by any means.  He just couldn’t sit still.

Precipitating this latest change, as it turns out, was the renewed possibility of their buying the little property down the road, since the property line issue that had derailed the purchase has finally been resolved and the current owner still needs to sell it to finance the new house he’s already broken ground for.  Now that the property isn’t listed, he and Bobby are discussing terms between themselves, and if he’ll let it go at the same price (he had to buy back the front yard from the state road department as a result of the survey), Bobby and Alene want to go ahead with their plans to buy the place and fix it up a bit at a time while living in the little farmhouse at Bear and Thistle.

They were worried we’d already made arrangements to have someone move in immediately, and wouldn’t be able to accomodate their request.  But we hadn’t, so it was easy to say yes of course, you’re more than welcome to stay on.  They were relieved to hear that and of course we’re relieved, too.  It’s much better to have them there.

We will go ahead with installing the alarm system and a few motion-activated security lights, and I will gate and fence the driveways and as much of the road edge as possible on our September visit.  We don’t need to make it Fort Knox, but I’ve put too much planning and resources into that initiative to turn it off at this point, and it will make the place more secure even with them there.  So they’ll not see the woodstove installed for their benefit this winter, and perhaps not the next, for having zig-zagged course and forcing me to change our working plans to adapt to the possibility of having to leave the place unoccupied. 

But they are lucky to have had the flexibility to try their idea on and, finding it not fitting, go back to the original arrangement.  And we’re fortunate they changed their minds, though I have no idea how long they’ll want to stay, or if they’ll change their minds again soon, or if their plan to buy the little house down the road will work out.  

I hope it does.

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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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