Man, it’s good to be alive and working outside on a spring day in Tennessee.
That’s what I was thinking on Saturday afternoon. After the surgery, then weeks of having my arm pinned to my side in a sling, then months of recovery and physical therapy, I finally got to do some actual work on the land. The time and effort required didn’t quite take me to the mental and physical state I call Dog-Tired Satisfied, but it was close – close enough that I felt justified in downing a cold Guinness afterwards while sitting outside and taking in the view.
We’ve been planning for years to surround the back of the property with cattle panels (Chareva’s favorite construction material) so the dogs can run around back there. I even got as far as hacking the jungle away from a line of t-posts that run alongside the creek.
But as Nature has demonstrated several times, jungles grow back. There are t-posts hiding in that mess you see in the pictures below.
We’ve had rain most weekends this spring, but Saturday was sunny and right around 60 degrees. Perfect outdoor-work weather. So I fired up The Beast for first time since last autumn.
Cutting down the jungle in that patch of land requires a lot of switching from forward to reverse. There are some steep drop-offs along the creek, and given that The Beast weighs a ton, going forward just a wee bit too far could mean hiring a small gang of strong men to lift it up and out of there. The jungle is so thick in some spots along the creek, it’s impossible to see where the land stops and the little cliffs begin. So I put The Beast at its lowest speed and moved forward verrry slowwwly.
Success. After about two hours, I’d cleared enough of the jungle to expose the line of t-posts. The next step will be to do some additional clean-up using my weed-whacker with a sawblade attachment.
Of course, while I was recovering from surgery, Chareva still had plenty of farm chores to keep her occupied. As you may recall, we built a new chicken yard last August to move the surviving chickens away from a racoon who had (as I discovered far too late) taken up residence somewhere beneath their coop. When we first moved them, their new yard looked like this:
All nice and green. Now it looks like this:
That’s what chickens do. But as we’ve discovered, that pecked-bare land is exceptionally fertile because of all the chicken droppings. So Chareva moved the chickens to one of the old chicken yards, and this one will become a garden. She just planted some blueberry bushes in there.
She’s also been busy building raised beds in her existing garden area. You probably can’t see it in the picture below, but she took the extra netting from the newest chicken yard and extended it over the garden. The net doesn’t quite reach the fence on one side, but we’ll worry about that if and when we ever rotate chickens to this area.
My last bit of farm work before the surgery was inside Sara’s cabin. I spent an October weekend cutting away bits of wood that extended beyond the 2 x 4s in the ceiling. (Too bad I was doing the work with a bone spur in my shoulder. That probably contributed to shredding the bicep tendon.)
I’ve been lobbying to get the cabin finished because I’d like Sara to enjoy it for a few years before she leaves for college. After talking over the possibilities with Chareva, Sara decided she’d be happy to call the ceiling finished (for now, at least) if they used fabric instead of wood planks. She and Chareva took care of that job recently.
That just leaves the floor. Chareva scored some free flooring from a contractor who had salvaged it from his last job. After putting down a plastic vapor barrier, she and Sara began installing the flooring a couple of weeks ago. They’ll need another day or two to finish it. Then it will finally be time to drag some furniture into the place and call it done.
Did I say Sara leaves for college in a few years? Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. One more month, and her first year of high school will already be over. Come November (when I’ll turn 60), she’ll be able to get a learner’s permit. As a father, that scares me a bit.
I don’t want driver’s ed class to be the first time she’s behind the wheel of a car. I own a good-sized chunk of land. I put two and two together and realized we have an opportunity here: she can drive around the front pastures just to get used to the feel of the gas pedal, brake, steering wheel. There’s almost nothing out there to hit.
You can imagine what happens when you mention the possibility of driving to a 14-year-old. All other desires take a back seat. I can drive? When? WHEN?!
I told her we’d have to wait until the front pastures are completely dry — meaning several days with no rain — because I don’t want to slide around or get stuck out there. She tracked the weather like a meteorologist, counting the consecutive days with no rain. It’s been a wet spring, so she kept having to restart the clock.
But a couple of weeks ago, Friday afternoon rolled around after a five-day dry stretch. Before Sara arrived home from school, I made a 25-cent bet with Alana: how long after Sara walks through the door will she ask me to take her driving in the front pastures? Alana placed her bet on five minutes. I said two minutes.
The correct answer was 30 seconds. And so, 25 cents richer, I made good on my promise.
Man, it’s good to be alive and driving around the pastures on a spring day in Tennessee …