Posts Tagged ‘winter on the farm’

We’re flying out this morning for a few days at the farm to knock out some maintenance projects that I’d rather not leave until Spring.

I know, it’s the middle of winter.  And yes, there’s a whopper snowstorm of epic and historic proportions clobbering the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic but I am hoping the worst of it will pass well north of the farm.  It’s snowing there right now, but only lightly.  Nothing like what will fall further east.  

I had a tip-off that there would be a dry spell for our location into next week which is turning out to be innaccurate, but you have to make travel plans and reservations in advance and so, this was the best I could do.  I was hoping I could do some off-season pasture maintenance.  We’ll see.  So far the 10-day forecast on weather.com predicts 30-40% chance of light snowshowers mid-week; not exactly a dry spell.  I’ll keep my expectations low and do what I can, weather and ground conditions permitting.  There’s always something that can be done.

Bear will be adding extra dead-bolt locks to house and barn doors, and we were excited about the arrival of my newest piece of work equipment, a 6X4 Diesel JD Gator, ordered from the local dealer and scheduled to be delivered on Monday, but it has been delayed.  So we’ll have to pick it up on our Spring trip. 

This little rig will be my salvation when I get there, toting me and my tools and fencing supplies etc up the hill and around the pastures like nothing else can.  I’m down with getting lots of exercise walking everywhere but the hill road is a steep quarter-mile and the pastures are flung out like a giant’s hand; I’ll appreciate a vehicle that can carry a load and go everywhere without batting an eye and with minimal impact.

So, wrapping up here at Bear and Thistle West and heading east to the Farm.  Blocks for Wall #2 are stacked and ready for my return and the three-day weekend that follows.  Good work, and I’m looking forward to all of it.  

I’ll update on Friday when we return; stay safe and warm, all.

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A Little Snow














The Blizzard of ’09 missed south-central Kentucky, as near as we can tell from Alene’s reports and pictures.  They got a two-inch dusting at the farm, just enough to look like winter for awhile, then the sun came out and it was gone the next day.

I am not unhappy that this area doesn’t get regular deep snows – one of the deciding factors for choosing this place in Taylor County, Kentucky, was the moderate highs and lows throughout the year; both Derril and I spent childhoods in long-winter states (he in Ohio, I in Colorado) and remember well the cold and endless months under snowpack, waiting for Spring to arrive.  So finding a place to live the rest of our lives with definite seasons (San Diego has nothing of the sort) but without a preponderance of winter was an agreed upon objective, ruling out many alluring properties that presented themselves in Idaho, Wyoming, and upstate New York.

We’ll have to treasure every little snowfall we get once we’re there.  And I’ll never have a sleigh; one horse-drawn vehicle less to fill the equipment shed.  I’ll have to put sleigh bells on the horses’ harness anyway during the winter, though, just to enjoy the seasonal effect.  And take lots of pictures when a storm of white comes through, to savor the beauty before it disappears.

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Before we left the farm for Virginia on our last visit, we took Bobby up to the pasture edge to mark a couple of hickory trees to cut for firewood.  He’d talked about wanting some hickory firewood the entire time we were there, and although there are many trees already blown down that would make perfectly good firewood, by gum it was hickory the old man wanted.  Said his daddy burned hickory and it was the best firewood ever.  Needed a couple of years to season, so he wanted to get some cut right away.  Even though we haven’t put a stove in the little house yet, and they only use the fireplace if ever the power goes out.  And he has a stack of oak all put by.  Still, he wanted to cut some hickory, and I like to keep him happy, so I said I was sure there were a couple that could be culled for such a purpose.

Rather than leave him to decide which trees to cut, I said we’d go mark a few for him.  He couldn’t understand why I cared about hickory trees, said they weren’t valuable as lumber, no one would buy them.  To which I replied, I have no intention of selling any of my trees for lumber; I’m building a barn and a house with them, thank you very much, and a good saw log is a good saw log, whether it’s hickory or oak or poplar or maple.

So we drove on up and started around the pasture edge, and I asked him to point out any hickories he saw.  Bobby knows his trees, that’s for sure.  Can tell them apart by the bark, at a distance even.  We came up alongside three trees growing close together right at the pasture edge, which he said were all hickory but the one in the middle was a shagbark.  Well shagbarks are good nut trees, one of the best, and this one was growing straight up and had about 14-inch diameter already, but the other two were right next to it and sharing water, sunlight and nutrients.  Cutting them would leave the good grower to prosper by itself.  So we marked the ones on either side, and I said they’d give him more firewood than he would know what to do with, and vetoed his suggestion to cut the huge leaning hickory at the corner of the field, pointing out the three good saw logs in its lower trunk that may someday take their place in the bents of my big barn.

A week later they had a couple of days of good weather, and Alene emailed me that he’d got them felled and was busy cutting them into stove-length logs.  He dropped the first one right into the pasture, but the second one he felled into the woods behind; I would not have, I would have directed it out to the pasture as well, it was only leaning a little.  No telling what good saplings were crushed as it fell, but it was only one tree and he drug it out with the tractor by its butt onto the pasture, so minimum damage was done.

I don’t like that he doesn’t wear any safety equipment when he operates his saw.  He’s a careful old man, and seems to know his limits, but he does things the old way, especially if there’s much money or trouble involved.  You won’t catch me running a saw without chaps and a helmet with a faceguard and ear muffs, and I could buy all that for him but I doubt he’d wear it.  He cuts up quite a few trees and branches that fall across the paths and into the fields, so it isn’t like he wouldn’t get some use out it, but he’s a stubborn and tough old country boy.  Reminds me a lot of a hickory tree.

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 Last Tuesday’s ice storm through Kentucky and surrounding areas hit the Farm, but not as bad as it could have.  The folks were without power for an hour and a half, they said, and had to burn quite a stack of wood in the little fireplace to keep the place warm.

It’s an all-electric double-wide trailer house, on a permanent foundation, with good 6″ walls well-insulated, but you know, with electric heat and an electric stove, you’re just screwed when (not if) the power goes out.

We’re planning on installing a little wood-burning stove where the fireplace is – probably do that next Fall.  By the time I move there, I’m going to be heating with wood, and might even get a propane stove put in, too.

But the folks are ok and the temperatures are climbing again, so for now, disaster has been foiled.  A friend up in the Louisville area wrote about this ice storm up there, and spoke of one a couple of years back, down in Arkansas where they used to live, that snapped big beautiful trees with the sounds of gunshots.   I do not like to see great living things damaged like that, but if they do go crashing down, you just make more firewood, I suppose.  And any good saw logs can be made into lumber, if you have the means to do that.

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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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