Sometimes Stumped (Finding Solutions)

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How’s the land?

Magnificent. Straight up, magnificent. Thank you for asking 🙂

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Almost everyone who knows about the new adventure asks about it, and almost every time they ask there is a new story to tell about it. For instance, I now have an address.  Cassidy and I have been paired with a fire number that identifies our land. We have an address to go home to now.

Another instance of the ever continuing saga, we have a driveway. We can drive onto our newly addressed home AND turn around.

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Last time I wrote to you I spoke of the shared approach that had just been granted by our gracious neighbors. Immediately after that we applied for an E911 number. We also started the work of clearing a driveway.

We walked around the land, looked at all the trees, and made a plan of which trees to chop. We chose the path of least resistance, leaving a swath wide enough for a truck among many of the still standing original occupants. Most of the trees that we marked for the ax were pines. We have many pines, they take up a large majority of the land and we were happy to give some sun to the rest as well as some space to sapling oaks and poplar.

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Also, pines are straight, and therefore seem to have less impact when felled. They fall in a straight line with only small area at the top with branches to get in the way. As long as the trees are aimed straight and the top branches don’t get caught up on the fall down, felling them is a breeze. In one day we cut down all the trees on the first half of the driveway. On the next day Cassidy seemed more contemplative. He is actually the lumber jack in this scenario, I am the brush clearing go-fer (pronounced: gopher).  While he cut down the trees with a chainsaw I took a pair of loppers, used for trimming branches and taking our small brush, and did exactly that. We had hazelnuts in the very front of the driveway that had to be gone, and that was what I did. I have since become pretty good at grabbing the trees and pulling them up like weeds, which saves time on digging up their root balls with the spade.

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Anyway, as I was relaying, Cassidy was more contemplative on the second day of driveway work. He was to start on the second half, and I thought maybe he was tired. I worked on my hazelnut roots, and after a good bit of time I heard the chainsaw start up. Not long after, I heard the crunch of a falling trunk hitting nearby trees, but I never heard the crash that signified contact with the ground. The chainsaw engine was cut and silence reigned. After a bit of this silence I wondered what was up and asked Cassidy if he needed help. He did.

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The tree, though almost perfectly aimed, had caught its top, spear like, branches on neighboring trees as it fell. When I walked over I saw a tree that had detached from its stump but was now leaning, like a two by four against a shed, on two trees, refusing to fall to the ground, while Cassidy rocked it back and forth with a small dead tree trunk from our brush pile used like a javelin. This tree had managed to get caught up in the fall down.

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In this instance one would usually get out their handy dandy come-along and use it to winch and pull the trunk away from the other trees, letting it free. As a start up with a small operation, our lumberjacking business did not own one of those. We wished we did, but we did not.

Rocking the tree did not work even with two people. We then resorted to levering the tree. We had a stump from a felled tree, and we had logs, also from felled trees. We used these two in conjunction, putting them just so, and then putting all of our combined body masses into moving this ginormous tree. It would move a bit, and then we would try rocking it. I had the bright idea to remove the ground from beneath the trunk, allowing for more give, it worked, but not as I imagined. It turned out to be crucial in the hour and a half long struggle. Every time we managed to move the tree a bit we would dig a bit more, making a trench that led the trunk to slip down the other trees the way we wanted.

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Occasionally we would rock it, and we continued to move our lever to different tree trunks to get different angles. Eventually, it looked like we might win, the cause was not hopeless, and maybe we would succeed at lumberjacking, and that was when I suggested we try rocking it one more time. We did. The satisfying sound of tree making contact with the ground marked our victory, and the hooting and hollering commenced.

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That was the hardest tree. It was the first tree in a section of driveway blocked by trees, and there was no clear spot to aim it. That one tree took up a the majority of our work day on the second day, but after it was down the rest were easy.

For the record, Cassidy is a bad ass. He continued to lumberjack despite the intense workout we had already gone through in moving a whole tree by pure human stamina. I continued felling miniature trees and digging up their pointy root masses.

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The next day was spent felling more trees.

And then we went back to work.

And then we came back the next week and cleared the stumps. Cassidy and I decided to go it alone on our driveway project to save money. With just us and a chainsaw we made it happen. The stumps proved challenging, but they were soon overcome by our stinginess and Cassidy’s sheer willpower.

I worked on digging up old brush piles, now turned into lumpy bumps of black dirt and ants. I dug them and redistributed them throughout the driveway. Cassidy cut the stumps to ground level, and then took a spade, digging around them until there was ample space to put the Stihl to work. Getting low he shaved off the rest of the stump so it was just below the level of the dirt, and I came along and covered them back up.

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After nine workdays of varying length and one dulled chain we finished our driveway. There was much crowing the first time we pulled in and turned around. This was our first step.

During this time my sister came to visit all the way from Alaska, husband in tow. They came to see us on their way to vacation. We set down all the tools for four days and went for a daytrip to our favorite nearby lake. We had icecream and drank beer. It was four days of absolute loveliness hanging with these two loved ones.

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What a treat to see them! They arrived late Friday night and left early Wednesday morning. We headed out to the land to work off the sweet sorrow of the sad departure. It was our second week of driveway work.

The third week culminated in KAXE Riverfest, a music festival for our local community radio station. Cassidy and I played role as sound monkeys, helping our friend, and head audio technician, set the stage for each act. That took Friday and Saturday. Another great couple of days, and a kind-of break.

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On the fourth week our driveway was complete!

I stopped by the electric office and spoke to them about how to get hooked up last week. They told me the steps, I signed some papers.

The rule book says the electric company needs a ten foot corridor on the side of a person’s ten foot driveway to fit the truck the bring into lay the wire. This meant we had to take down more trees.

Cassidy and I discussed this realty over a couple beers. We were sad. The next time we went out we told our kind neighbor, Russ. Since we have been on our land we have made quite good friends with our neighbors. Russ has had us help cut up firewood, and they have invited to share meals with them. We look forward to the day we can return the favor.

When we told Russ he was as sad us we were to hear of the felling of more trees. He had a marvelous solution, though. He stopped by, and pointed out a nearby transformer box on the lad of our nearest neighbor, Jim. A shared box, used by Jim and the neighbor on his other side, why not us? And as long as we were going to do that why not put the 10 foot corridor in the convenient gap mother nature had already left between a couple rows of trees? Why cut down more along the driveway when an opening was available?

We called in a staking agent, met with him today, and he agreed. The verdict is in, the driveway is done and the electric can still be put in.

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Besides that, we have also broke ground on our foundation. Yesterday, 08/03/16, we drilled 15 holes for our upcoming pier foundation. We used a borrowed ice auger from a friend, thinking our land was mostly sand. The ground is sand, but after six inches it becomes sand with rock. Small rock, large, rock, you name it; gravel is the name of the game beneath our chosen building site. This was good news for us and the structure, but not as good news for the auger. Word of warning: don’t use an ice auger in gravel. Cassidy did and he told me he can still feel the vibration (wrenching of the auger hitting stone) in his hands today.

After starting 15 holes Cassidy grabbed a shovel and I followed suit. We have been digging in gravel ever since. 10 holes down, five to go as of this afternoon.

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For now we are digging two foot holes, with a circumference that will allow for 16 inches worth of stacked block that will make the pillar. We had assumed we needed to go deeper than 2 foot, and we might still have too, but our soil has excellent drainage, as witnessed after the heavy storm last night that left no puddles. Our frost protected pier foundation (a Scandinavian design) will be solid, and after we finish it we can start on the beam structure. Excited does not even begin to describe my emotions right now 🙂

Lots of work? Maybe.

Magnificent? Most definitely.

It is all totally worth it. Going to our land does not feel like working to dig a hole or working to cut a tree, it feels like working to build life at our new address.

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By building I also mean cultivating. I transplanted a few trees in the last month. I also transplanted a rose, and though that died it would have otherwise been destroyed by our foundation work. The transplanted trees were in the middle of our driveway and now those five mini pine trees and one birch appear to be taking root in their new spots. Some trees get cut down, which means others get more green and spry with the opened window to the sun. Seedlings are starting up where I moved fill from an anthill to the driveway, and among this all the birds sing and tiny toads hop about.

Today we rescued a larger toad from one of the pier holes. He hopped away as though nothing had happened. The prints of does and fawns grace the freshly moved driveway dirt. I have noticed that the raspberries are being enjoyed by all, not just my hungry fingers in between spurts of work.

We are building life right now. What is taken away we are making sure is also being given back. It is a magnificent experience.

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