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Monday, May 14, 2012

More Hands, Lighter Work

On Friday morning we finished the first picnic table and built the second from start to finish.

Frank & Debbie arrived later in the day, over from Chicagoland for the weekend, which in addition to the socializing provided extra hands and legs for some tasks and projects. The dock deck (as distinct from the grill deck and the Mystery Building deck) got an upgrade with several extra 55-gallon plastic barrels-worth of floatation. By standing everyone else against the far rail, along with eight 5-gallon buckets of water, Alan & I could lever up the near side enough to slip the barrels underneath. We installed a second anchor and built a gangplank and voila! a new favorite place to hang out. The barrels came from an electrician who'd done some work out here recently, who knows a guy at the Heinz plant in Muscatine; they originally contained liquid smoke and barbeque sauce.

Gary also visited, bringing from Center Junction a 3-point hitch mounted auger with two sizes of blade that we'll use for upcoming construction. Serious equipment: it required the big tractor and a logging chain to lift off the flatbed truck. "'I know a guy'," Gary said, referring to our barrel source, "is one of the most valuable assets a farmer can have." We're lucky we knew a guy with a 3-point hitch mounted auger.

Aerial photos of the farm from the 1930s show a cattle pasture with just a few large oaks, with no hint of the dense, richly-diverse woods here today. One legacy of that period, though, is a network of tractor trails that we've been rediscovering as we get to know the property. For recreation and basic access, we want to open up some of these old trails, and this is a job for the bush hog (a scary-powerful chopper mower) and chainsaw.

Caution – you may need ear protection to listen.

We took a bunch of buckets of pond water to a farm supply store in town where a fishery was distributing stock, and brought home a hundred each of 6-inch channel catfish and fingerling large mouth bass.

Kingfishers diving fully into the water. Swallows on the wing dipping sips of water between snacks of insects. Successive large plops into the pond from along the shore as prey escape the stalking ermine. Ruby throated hummingbirds at the coral bells. Orioles and goldfinches and bluebirds. A not yet seen but definitely heard and nearby pack of coyotes. Wind in the big cottonwood. The biophony and geophony of the soundscape.

I began prepping the hops bed for rhizomes that should be delivered this week from Oregon. We're using the corn crib for trellis.

We can stop buying lettuce for the time being. Lots of stuff in the vegetable garden has emerged now and is getting going. I mulched the melon, squash, and cucumber mounds, the blueberries, the little fruit trees.

Lots of balls to keep in the air.

(Thank you to American Nacre special correspondent Debbie Bartsch for photos and videos.)

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