It's been a hell of a week here at Foxfire Homestead. Busy and fun, as we set our intentions and our resolve to tackle our home repairs. The last month of waiting for probably nothing has been a real test of my patience, as there's been many days that I've nearly set to work in the spur of a frustrated moment. We're holding up well though, and when I do start work, it'll be calculated and with a relative plan in mind. Relative because, well, it's me we're talking about, and because this is a big job. Replacing galvanized plumbing, replacing subfloor, bracing or possibly replacing floor joists, remodeling two bathrooms and a kitchen, and reflooring. It'll be fun though, and I think in our budget we'll be able to finally do something to fix up the apartment.
Big tree, felled with little axe
As of now, the plan is to start work next Saturday. The men and their families are coming over for a day of production, festivity, and fellowship with a planned potluck and friendly competitions involving sticks and axes. It'll also be educational, but I don't want to spoil it, as that'll make an awesome post for later.
Annnd the swing!
This Thursday I was accompanied to the creek by a friend from the men's group community. He too has an affinity for the outdoors in a spiritual sense, and we made a good time of it, exploring the creek and coming up with a plan for building a semi-permanent natural structure out there to practice some bushcraft.
Out on a limb
The biggest discovery was a walnut tree that had taken significant damage since my last outing, probably during a wind storm this spring sometime after our group medicine walk. I haven't been out to the woods since then. It's sad how little I got done with my total of nearly four paid months off work. We took the opportunity to climb the limb, probably more than twenty feet up the bank over the creek. The bark was a little slick on account of this week's rain, but we were safe. No harm, no foul.
Giant branch of a walnut, with the spot it fell from in the top of the frame
We'll probably be able to use some of this tree in the bushcraft shelter, but I'm going to need a bigger axe. I'm pretty well set on a Rinaldi Cadore axe. It's got a relatively light 1500g head that's a hybrid between an American style head and a European style head. It's got a 38" friction fit handle like a tomahawk handle for easy maintenance and packing. At well under $100 for a hand forged piece, the price is right as well.
Another neat discovery was a turtle nest. I guess they hatched this spring/summer, whenever turtles hatch. There were little shell remnants scattered about the entrance. We didn't see any turtles on this trip, but the water had been moving a lot due to the recent heavy rains. Turtles like calmer waters. I wonder how to tell what kind of turtles they were, or maybe if they were snakes. The shells were pretty leathery and looked similar to snapping turtles that we got to observe hatching near a pond at a local university when I was a kid.
Man above, Creek below
A couple of projects are coming to fruition this week. The five golden amaranth plants started forming heads to set seed for next year's planting. Hopefully the seeds will be viable, as I'd love to plant and tend a large crop of grain amaranth. I've been setting my mind more to caring for this place properly next season and actually getting decent harvests. A Bible verse from Proverbs 6 has been weighing on me:
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;(A)
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer(B)
and gathers its food at harvest.
That's pretty heavy and applicable to my situation, I'd say. My stewardship of my plot has been piss poor, and harvest has been poor to match. Nothing to do for it now though but learn and apply what I've learned.
Amaranth seed heads forming
The other project that's coming along is a wild mead/wine that I started. I think I picked, mashed, and mixed everything the 15th of August, and nearly a month later it's finally started bubbling! I had mostly given up on it and let it sit just to see what'd happen, and I looked at it one day after work and the airlock was bubbling away! A pleasant surprise for a fun experiment. I only used wild grapes, raw honey, and distilled water for this. The grapes have a natural yeast on their skin that's the engine of the fermentation, I guess it just took the little bugs a bit to get warmed up and kicking. When it stops bubbling, I'll filter it all out, probably by a cloth siphon. It'll be neat getting buzzed with friends off of a feral crop on the homestead. If it tastes decent, I'll be making it as a seasonal fun thing. If it doesn't taste decent, I'll try something else! After all, humanity thrives on ethanol, right?
I have a strong, yet unproven suspicion that my hasty earthworks in the forest garden have hurried (if not caused) the issues necessitating our home repairs. I can't confirm, but I think the last hugel mound and the corn rows I put in this spring caused water to move differently, leading to flooding in our crawlspace. As a remedy, I made a wall and a French drain to protect where I think the water is coming in.
The French drain project is roughly thirty feet long, and runs down around to the side yard from a low spot next to the newest hugel bed. The twenty foot long wall runs on a concrete pad along the drip line of our roof in front of the place where water would be draining in. This is the most feasible spot because this is where water pools. The rest of the yard drains well, but this low spot consistently gathers water.
Now I have a new problem: what to plant in this spot? Probably something prone to taking over, since this is nice and contained. A mint perhaps. Maybe if there's something that will make the crawlspace (and thus the house) smell fresher, as there's a crawlspace vent right there. Mint would do that really well, but what kind? I know there's tons of herbs in the mint family, so there'll be plenty to choose from. I've not had much luck with herbs yet, but probably because of my biblically proportioned sluggishness.
Well, it's nearly midnight and I'm cozy in bed. Gonna wrap this one up for the night.
Love from Texas