Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Moving earth

One of the first things we noticed when we moved into our new home is there is a failing hillside right next to the barn.

Our property is sloped and divvied into three "steps" an upper pasture, a narrow and artificially flattened wedge in the middle (which contains the house and barn), and a lower pasture. The photo below is taken from the house porch and shows the "wedge" looking toward the barn.

This wedge is narrow to begin with, and it gets even skinnier at the barn end. In fact, it's impossible to drive a vehicle behind the barn because there's no room on either side of the building.

But it's possible to widen the pad at one side of the barn to make a road access. Apparently this had been attempted by the previous owners attempted but not completed. The result was a mess.

Look at the corner of the building and how it's kinda buried in the ground. Not good.

Widening the pad on this side of the barn is a smart idea and literally the only way to do it, but for unknown reasons the project was left unfinished. As a result, the hillside was starting to crumble and move downhill. A wet spell could send a mound of dirt sliding into the barn wall. Needless to say, repairing this became a top priority.

Besides, we wanted a wider area next to the barn for a variety of reasons. Don plans to build an awning off the side of the barn where we can store firewood, park the tractor, or even temporarily house cows when the time comes. Having a wide graveled pad would be perfect.

We have a neighbor named Bill who operates heavy equipment. As it turns out, Bill needs dirt fill for a project of his own, so he eagerly agreed to reshape the hillside and widen the pad in exchange for the dirt (which he carted off in a dump truck) and a modest hourly wage. It was a win-win for both Bill and us.

So last week Bill brought in his massive track hoe.

He got right to work, but found he could do only a limited amount from ground level.

What he did was build himself a ramp to hoist his machine up the hillside. (The golf cart at bottom left is Bill's commute vehicle to get to our house.)

Next he brought in his dump truck and started uploading the dirt he had loosened so far.

Then, load by load, he carted the dirt away to his place.

Sadly, this little lady's nest was a casualty of the project.

The next step was to bring the dump truck up the hillside of the sloped pasture above the barn. This pasture has access to the road, so Bill simply opened the gates and drove up.

He was very careful to follow the same tracks each time so as to minimize damage to the pasture, but some damage was unavoidable.

Quite honestly, we're not too fussed about the tracks. The pasture has been so severely overgrazed in the past that hardly anything is growing. It will have to be disked and re-seeded before we can put cattle on it.

Quite an operation, n'est-ce pas? Bill had to level a pad in the top pasture for the dump truck because it was getting too tippy. Can't risk having the dump truck overloaded with dirt only to have it tip over and slam downhill into the barn.

You can see how much more room it will give us to the side of the barn, but clearly there's still a lot to do before we can gravel a road to the back of the barn.

That's all Bill has had a chance to do so far. We had rain come in over the last couple of days, and any attempt to continue the project under those conditions would turn things into a soupy mess. Bill is waiting until conditions dry out before he continues excavating the hillside.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Monday, April 26, 2021

Cloudy with a chance of rainbows

The weather report called for only a small chance of rain yesterday afternoon.

That was enough, apparently, for quite a downpour. I won't go so far as to call it a gully-washer, but it was a steady heavy rain that lasted several hours. Just before sunset, the sun broke through and made for some gorgeous conditions.

The sun shone through a small break in the clouds, lighting up all the rain. The result, inevitably, was a gorgeous double rainbow.

The sun shone through the wet trees, making them magical.

If you look carefully, you can see the rain still coming down in this photo.

A herd of deer across the road didn't seem to mind the wet. Not that they had much of a choice...

A shaft of sunlight lit up this little lady.

Mr. Darcy tracked her intently.

The whole spectacle must have lasted fifteen minutes before the sun finally set.

This morning, no surprise, was foggy, though early sun shone through and lit up the yard, including the bird feeder.

We needed the rain, so I'm glad the weather didn't listen to the weather report.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Come what may, we live here

I don't know about you, but the news has been very depressing lately. We don't have television, of course; and even radio reception in our area is scant. But the internet is a window into every woe in the world, and sometimes it can get to be a very big downer to scan the headlines in the morning while drinking my tea.

So this morning, after reading something particularly heinous, I looked out the window at all the song birds attracted to the feeder, and realized something very, very important:

Come what may, we live here.

Seriously, our modest little home on modest little acreage has become – in just the four months we've lived here – a haven against all the turmoil and chaos in the wider world.

We have so many plans for this place. We're working on projects and improving the infrastructure to turn our acreage into another self-sufficient homestead. Whenever the rest of the world seems to be spinning out of control, we have to mentally withdraw and focus on what we can change, not on what we can't.

There is a certain peace that comes with letting go of things we can't control (which, of course, is what the Serenity Prayer is all about). When I see a particularly egregious headline, I look out the window and admire the Cassin's finches or lesser goldfinches or evening grosbeaks gathering at the bird feeder, and take a deep breath.

Come what may, we live here.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Backup backup backup backup

After a couple of years of waiting for it to happen, it finally happened: my faithful laptop died.

By the grace of God, we had ordered a replacement laptop back in January for just such an occasion. I even got it "pre-set-up" for what I needed, and then tucked it away.

Yesterday my old laptop froze. And I mean froze. Totally dead in the water. I finally turned it off cold (which I hate doing) and re-booted. After that it worked fine. I should have backed it up at that time, but I didn't. My last backup was April 3.

This morning my laptop worked fine, until once again it froze. Again, totally dead in the water. This time I had unavoidable job commitments and couldn't mess around, so I transitioned to my new laptop immediately. We were able to get the old laptop to run long enough for me to back up my materials (writing, photos, etc.), so nothing was lost.

My dear father is one the one who spent many years hammering into my head "Back up back up back up back up." He is right.

Back up your computer. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cotton candy season

Now that spring has arrived, all the anonymous bare trees around here are exploding into bloom.

Even the tiniest branches are a frothy mass of delicate blossoms.

As for distant hillsides, it looks like cotton candy piled on the slopes underneath the towering conifers.

This (apparently) is an apple tree on our property.

At the moment, it is loaded with blossoms.

But elsewhere (apparently) we're seeing wild plums.

The blossoms are so abundant that they pile up on the sides of the road.

It's all so unspeakably beautiful.

Cotton candy season won't last long, so we'll enjoy it while we can.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Honestly, who needs cattle?

I've mentioned over and over again how many deer we have around us here in our new place. Several times I've glanced out the window and my first thought is, "Cows." As in, livestock are grazing in the pasture. Which, in a way, they are.

We'll have whole herds just hang around, lounging in the field, resting or grazing.

They seem very much at ease, and in fact are quite fearless.

Many times they'll be right outside our windows.

I like deer, and since at the moment we have nothing they can destroy (such as a garden), I don't get annoyed with them. Really, it's like having a herd of tiny cattle all over the place. Pity they can't be milked.

Until such time as we have cattle competing with them, we'll just enjoy the sights.