Update (Memorial Day Weekend)

Friday, May 28th marked my fully vaccinated day. Two weeks after my second shot! So, I returned up Mountain Brook Road for the first time in 2021 over Memorial Day Weekend. I drove up that Friday and stayed until Tuesday. Originally I planned to work through the weekend and return Sunday, but most of Friday, a good part of Saturday, and all of Sunday were washouts. Sunday was a day of especially heavy and steady rain, making it impossible to do much of anything at all. Several overnight temperatures saw lows in the high 30’s (2 to 4 C), which feels even colder when you’re wet and even more exasperating when it’s almost June! Gracie the dog was pretty annoyed by the third day of being stationary, wet, and cold. Hanging out in the tent, I did a little experimenting with Izicast on my internet radio station, and I think next trip I’ll be able to do some live updates and even play some tunes!

My dog, Gracie, a yellow lab/poodle mix, lying on her blanket in the tent.

During the few breaks in the rain, I managed to get some clearing done, but the batteries on my weed eater didn’t run nearly as long due to the cold temperatures. So I took to using my bow saws to clear several small standing trees that had encroached upon the clearing’s boundaries. I also used the time to work on moving a lot of deadfall that had come down over the winter. I pulled out the pole saw and worked up a lot of suspect lower branches on my healthy trees around the campsite, and made a careful inspection on the 8 or 10 trees that needed to come down. Again, some trees were closing in on our very little bit of cleared land, and others were either poorly or just too close in proximity to where the building will eventually stand.

When things cleared up on Monday, I made a lot of progress. I cleared the whole field, to include this real bushy stuff that I need to identify. While I love the wildflowers and we’ve left them in past years, this is supposed to be an especially bad year for ticks. So with more folks expected out, and with a need to use the whole field as work area, I took down everything except a really pretty patch of ferns. I broadcast ten good sized packets of native wildflower seeds once everything was knocked down, so maybe there will be some better food for pollinators and wildlife later this summer or next year. In order to get at the woodiest stuff, I had to break out a beast of a machine. This blue bushwhacker is a loud and stinky 2-cycle backbreaker, and I don’t like to use it except when I have to. The attachments are great for trail clearing and situations like a badly overgrown lot. But it’s not my favorite thing to bring or use.

I was able to take down trees early Monday. Most were young sugar maples crowded along the edge of the field. The maples I kept at pole length and got them up off the ground to dry. I plan to use them to make an outdoor camp shower later this summer. I also took out one honey locust tree and I won’t miss its thorns. I was really careful with the yellow birch nearest to where the building will sit. I know these are special, slow growing trees, and I feel lucky to have many in our woods. I trimmed up the branches on the field side to hopefully ensure a balanced tree that won’t drop limbs on our new roof. But the tree I took down that got to me emotionally was a medium sized cherry. Actually two trunks that merged but were otherwise growing pretty well. This tree was certainly a field volunteer. I’ve looked at the old aerial photography from the 80s and 90s, and the edges of the field have definitely closed in. I expect this cherry was one of the first saplings to establish in the old field. It came down easy and I’ve put it aside for firewood.

Late in the day when I saw the cherry’s trunk weeping, I couldn’t help but think of the lost words: spellsongs project, the Robert Macfarlane poem, ‘Heartwood’ and the adapted song of the same name by Karine Polwart and Seckou Keita. I first heard this song on ds106radio in the late winter. I’m not sure the DJ, it was a set built from an amazing playlist. But downloaded the song that day and listened to it a few more times. Then I ordered the book and CD. Then I got one for my mom. It’s a beautiful project, and I linger on this poem and this adaptation of Macfarlane’s poem as I measure the consequence of every act to strengthen and improve these woods, and meekly make my place on its edge.

I was able to stake out the building site and consider the orientation of the front door. I had initially planned on something a bit more west-facing to take in the sunsets (the sun rises over a pretty high hill, so sunrise requires a trek uphill). But I’ve settled for something more south-southwestern to appreciate a view of the slope down to the spring and the archway resulting from the old logging road. I suspect this particular logging road is pretty old, likely from the first timber harvest of these tracts. Today, it invites me to tread between the ferns downward into the woods.

build site, ready for the installation of the helical piles.

On Tuesday, Gracie and I finished clearing the tops and doing some light work. I checked in with the helical post installers and it sounds like we’re on some time in the next couple of weeks. I also took a video of the drive in and out for the folks delivering the precut kit. Our road isn’t terrible. In fact, despite the rain I didn’t even need 4WD this trip. But pulling a trailer with two large pallets of lumber and roofing is another matter. I hope I hear back that the road presents no issues for delivery in July.

Around 11 am on Tuesday Gracie and I had finished packing up and we hit the road. Next trip, I’ll be recording the helical post installation and building the work platforms we’ll need in order to assemble the skids, If I have extra time, I want to build a tent platform and maybe get started on the outdoor shower. This means I’ll likely need to bring the trailer, and I’ve never driven that far pulling this trailer before. Lots of new stuff to try and learn.