Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weather again brings difficulties

As part of the bartering for the land upon which, or rather under which, I will be building my house, I have to help out on the larger property as needed. Well thanks to the weather that help is sorely needed this week. Yesterday the winds were blowing so strongly that they lifted a very large portion of the roof on a hay barn, flipping that large section (20'X60') over onto the rest of the roof.

So today was spent taking apart that roof as best we could into sections which we then pulled off of the roof so that we could disassemble the rest into parts in order to build the roof once again. Tomorrow will likely be spent in much the same way. Then we begin the process of building again, which will likely take up all of this wonderful break in the weather, thus putting off my own efforts to build my underground house.

Such is the nature of things..

Still with some timber cut, other timber located, plans in place, a batch of muscadine wine begun life is not all bad..

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weather woes and small spaces

After those three days of great progress and no small amount of timber harvested, I found myself hampered by cold, ice, rain, mud, and all of the ills of winter weather. With the temps dipping into the teens (F) the smart person is reluctant to even leave the warmth of his bed!

Still there has been some progress, in the form of a grove of cedars of some size which may result in some change of plan in that I may create vertical shoring in the form of a wall of posts, rather than a few posts holding back dimensional lumber. This means taking more trees, but even so it appears that it may still be possible to do so without taking any live trees, aside from those very few I had to clear from the site of the house itself. The grove we discovered when just taking a jaunt around the property, surprisingly is almost exclusive standing dead cedars (with the other species of trees still living just fine). Many of these are many feet in diameter, including one giant which will become the center post and a focal point in my home.

But as I said, the weather has been truly unpleasant for the most part, keeping me indoors to a large extent. One consequence of this has been a conscious examination of what it means to live in a small space. While preparing for building my home, I am living in a caravan of less than 150 ft sq. Needless to say this is a challenge, even to one such as I who desires small spaces and little impact on the world around me. One of the challenges, and there are many, of this arrangement is that the ceiling is actually about 2 inches shorter than I myself am. So the cubic area is even less than is revealed by the square footage. Still it is my place, and I am making the most of it as my temporary shelter.

I am coming to see some of the challenges of the home to be built, though it will be four times the square footage and have ceilings much more in proportion to my own person. The challenges are perhaps not entirely unique to me, yet it would be tedious to go into them in detail at this point. Mostly they take the form of realization of the need for kitchen workspace, for hanging storage, and for general storage for those things used daily or at least weekly but which need not be underfoot.

The weather promises to warm above freezing tomorrow, but with that comes more rain, so I am doubtful as to the amount of work I can get done, yet I will hope for dry skies and at least some opportunity to begin to clear the timber of the grove, in which we will be creating a bit of an opening in the forest and some more useful habitat for the fauna.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Timbering day three

After clearing the site and taking the timber off of it, I have begun to harvest timber from other parts of the property for the construction of my u-house. So far other than the few I removed from the site itself, I have not taken any living tree, instead relying upon dead falls, standing dead timber, and recovering what was considered not worth taking when they cleared some land for pastures in recent years.

Today's haul was 11 timbers, including a wonderful set of oaks which had fallen on a fence, but had grown previously near laser straight for over 25 feet. Just one of these I harvested is 25 feet long by one foot in diameter. This wonderful, slow grown and beautiful oak will support part of the natural roof which will shelter me, but which being earth is quite heavy. Between this, two sweet gum trees, and a hickory taken out in a storm last fall, I believe that I may have all of my roof girders (the principle horizontal roof structures).

I was also able to get some great oak posts from the limbs and tops of these trees, along with a number of good sized cedars which are already well aged.

The photo shows only a small number of the timbers taken today, mostly the oaks.. the longest being the 25 footer..

Tomorrow.. perhaps more cedars from the same area, along with some of the remaining limbs which could be of use. Progress..!!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Of muscadines, bok choy, and persimmons

One of the great pleasures of my recent life has been the foraging of food otherwise ignored, forgotten, or simply unfound. After arriving at my currently temporary location, I discovered the grand herald of the southern summer, the muscadine, still clinging to the vine. While most of these were inedible, at least not palatable to me, there were a few still green that the frost had turned wonderfully sweet.. these tidbits immediately took me back at least six months to the summer if not years back to the times I collected these as a child along the banks of an exciting creek full of child inspiring wonder..

At the same time, I have been practicing other forms of what would otherwise be considered urban foraging, except that I am hours away from any place anyone would mistake for even remotely "urban."

I have been enjoying the persimmons which are simply inedible until after the first frost, as well as bok choy planted int he garden which is bolting but still very tasty..

I have collected dried black eyed peas, which would be ignored by the owners as undesirable (they collected what they wanted fresh), and I could collect black walnuts were I more patient.. ( I expect that next year I will be..)

This ignores many of the wild edibles of which I am still learning, such as green briar (a nice bit of vengeance that is.. eating the damn vines which leave me cut to ribbons..) and others..

On a tree once planted I am certain by one of the early homesteaders of this site, there stands a persimmon tree, which produces fruit which is simply not edible until the frost comes and converts the starches to sugars producing a delicious if seedy treat.

All of this in December, when the winds are howling, the cold threatening, and the climate simply unwelcoming..

So in these troubles times I ask, are you really taking in all that you could for a comfortable and even gourmet lifestyle?

I am doing what I can.. give me a year and I will be living a fine life than most kings throughout history, for less than the most modest welfare queen!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Clearing the site

Removing the timber, which will be used in the construction of course, was the first step to clearing the land in preparation for the underground home I am going to be building over the next several months.

Dropping twenty some odd trees in the heavily briared site was a tiring two day job, but the results are satisfying. Soon I will be clearing off the vines and putting up permanent boundary markers to be used for excavation. You can see two of the temporary markers on the left side of the photo. This side is the cliff side, which is not evident in the photo. You can see just a glimpse of the mountains and hay meadow in the upper right of the shot.

Definitely progress..