Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Trail Frogs

So I had this idea - I would make use of my outdoor frog collection by turning them into hiking trail markers at the new property. Ultimately I want one at every trailhead and every trail junction. This one is at the junction of the Logging road and the divergence of the Lower West Ridge Trail and Blackberry Spur.
At the junction of Upper West Ridge Trail, Portrait Rock Trail, and Blackberry Spur (which, as you might imagine, has loads of wild blackberries growing along it).
The Upper West Ridge Trail and Portrait Rock Trail re-convene at this spot.
Where the Upper West Ridge Trail meets Octopus Eye Trail.
At the junction of... Just kidding, that's a real frog on the trail.
Tumbleweed is checking out the little frog at the junction of the Lower West Ridge Trail and an as-yet unnamed and incomplete loop along the southern edge of the woods.
The biggest frog is at the northern most point, at the end of the Upper West Ridge Trail
This one is at the beginning of the Old Turtle Trail, named in honor of the old turtle who was accidentally dislodged as we were hiking and slid downhill a bit.
.Where the Old Turtle Trail meets the East Ridge Trail
Also a real frog on the trail.
This frog is at the beginning of the Bobcat Trail, by the creek. We named it because it was a trail that seems to have been made by an animal short enough to pass under the brambles but heavy enough to leave a trail. The first time I went up it, I had to crawl on parts of it.
And where the Bobcat Trail joins up with the East Ridge Trail.
And a little frog at the very beginning of the East Ridge Trail, right inside the gate to the logging road/driveway. I still have a couple of spots that need frogs, but our next step is making trail signs to go with them.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Maybe there's hope after all.

I generally don't write about politics here the way I do on facebook, but this is an extraordinary circumstance. Earlier this month we stood in line for an hour to vote, and then waited. On Tuesday I stuck a bottle of champagne in the fridge, hoping against hope we'd have cause to crack it open, and then waited. It's been a long week. Not surprisingly, Trump has been demanding that every vote be counted in states where he was losing and that the vote count should stop in states where he was ahead. He has, without a shred of truth, declared that there was widespread fraud in states where he lost. He has filed lawsuits and made clear his intent to fight the results. He has refused to concede and has even claimed that he has won. The man is a fucking lunatic and an insanely sore loser. 
The margin was far too narrow for my comfort, but we did it. We cracked open the bottle of champagne to watch the acceptance speeches. First, there's the wonderful, historic win for what will be the first female Vice President, first Black Vice President, first daughter-of-immigrants (Jamaican and Indian) Vice President. I found myself thinking about how glad I was that the first female VP wasn't Sarah Palin. [Side note: I liked John McCain. I think he was an honorable guy. As much as I wanted Obama to win, I would not have been devastated if McCain had won EXCEPT for the fact that he chose a nutjob as his running mate.]  Anyway, the little girls in this country are watching and they got to see the possibilities for themselves expand today. I cried listening to Kamala Harris's acceptance speech and hope she gives me reason to want to vote for her when she runs for President.
And look, Joe Biden wasn't my first choice. I mean, he's yet another old white guy in charge. But I do believe he is a genuinely good person and I know this: He won't be egging on white supremacists. He won't be bragging about sexually assaulting women. He won't be pandering to the Evangelicals while not being remotely religious himself. He won't be having immigrant children ripped from their parents and kept in cages. He won't be trying to undo the gains made by the LGBT community. He won't be spending millions of taxpayers' dollars to play golf every bloody weekend. He won't be funneling money to his own private businesses. He won't be bragging, endlessly and without merit, that he is better, smarter, taller, fitter, and saner than anyone else has ever been in the history of the world. I could go on, but you get my drift. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have their work cut out for them and have a lot of damage to try to fix. But I suspect much of the world is breathing a big sigh of relief along with me.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Tumbleweed Update

When my son first spotted Tumbleweed, she was barely past being a kitten herself but was accompanied by what must have been her offspring. It was tiny and my son wasn't able to coax them near enough to catch them, although he put out food and water. The little kitten apparently didn't make it because it never came back with Tumbleweed, but once she allowed us to pet her, we knew we needed to get her spayed. Let me tell you, she put up a valiant fight against being put into the cat carrier. But although she twisted and spread her claws out, she never actually bit or scratched us. 
We took her back to our house after she was spayed to recover for a week on our sunporch. After a couple of days she was itching to get out. You can see her little shaved belly and the leg where the IV went. But once healed, she was happy to be back on her own stomping grounds.
In no time, she was as lively as ever and back to exploring. She knows there is often food in my son's truck so she tries to figure out how to get in. 
And then there is the killing. Shrews, chipmunks, birds. It's clear how she survived before we started feeding her.
Here she torments a cicada, spinning it around.
And good grief, can that cat climb! It's amazing especially to watch her climb back down a tree, turning her body with each step to maintain her grip.
Her fur has all grown back since the surgery and she has become an incredibly affectionate companion,  climbing into our laps demanding to be petted or following us around on the property as we work. Just one more thing to love about that little slice of mountains we have. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Still not dead.

I just spend every minute possible up at the Ridge, either working on the land or helping my son. So much so that I'm waaaay behind on things I need to do at the house. So, a little update, then I truly am going to try to start posting a bit more frequently.

I still get nervous every time my son is up on the extension ladder or, worse, on the roof. I think he's careful, but he's still young and prone to doing things like stopping to check a text message.

The short ladder I'm a little more comfortable with. And I do enjoy helping in whatever way I can, even if it means lying on my back under the trailer holding a water tank up with my knees and forearms while my son bolts the hanger straps into place.

The tiny house is now encased in metal roofing and siding. It reminds me of a squared-off airstream trailer. Or like a house in Iceland, many of which are small and made of metal. My son hasn't yet put the cedar trim around the upper casement window in the sleeping loft because he wants to get the facia board in first.

At any rate, he's turned his attention to getting it insulated since cold weather is approaching. This involves tanks of frightening chemicals and what looks like Hazmat gear. I suggested the bags over his new work boots. 

I'm safely outside while he's doing the spray foam insulation. He's got enough on all the walls to stay reasonably warm and has moved in with a sleeping bag in the loft. He was welcome at our house but was eager to get back out on his own. 
And in the meantime, my husband and I continue to work on the trails. We carried the two wooden chairs from the front yard up to the East Ridge next to the tree we call our tree, and often stop there to sit and just soak in the serenity. The video quality isn't great, but you can get a sense of how peaceful it is up ther with no sound but the birds, the breeze, and the falling leaves.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A new resident at the Ridge.

I haven't been around much (and won't be for a bit) because I've been working virtually every spare hour up at the new property helping my son. I work all day from home and then hit the road as soon as I'm done to take advantage of the daylight. Even on a rainy day, we moved the construction inside. One night last week, we worked in the dark with battery-operated lights to get the last lower-floor window in. This involved me on a ladder at times, holding the window in place and flinching as moths hit my face.
The tiny house is all wrapped now and we are waiting on the delivery of the last window, a special-order casement window for sleeping loft egress. But that's not today's story. See the cat in the background by my son's truck?
At first, this little feral kitty yowled at us from the woods, skulking in the underbrush and darting away when we approached. One day, I asked my son if I could toss her a chicken strip he had in his truck and she wolfed it down from safety of the creek bed. The next day, we fed her parts of our sandwiches, and the next he gave her a wrap that he hadn't eaten at lunch.
On Tuesday, we had the same thought, leading to this text exchange. We met up at the ridge that evening and my son had also bought food and water bowls. My son named her Tumbleweed. She's started to fill out and meets us at the gate now each day.
Once she decided she trusted us, she became extremely affectionate. She follows us around as we work, rubbing against our legs and keeping up a running commentary. And if you sit down, she's right there, wanting to be petted.
Looks like Tumbleweed, the little Tortoiseshell kitty, has found a new home.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

My little orchard-to-be.

At times when I can't provide any useful help on the tiny house build, I've been working on a project of my own. Just the other side of the remaining cinder block wall was a jungle between it and the road. And one of the few spots that gets a fair amount of sun. I had big plans.
The first thing I did was clear a little path along the wire that ran from the gate to prevent people from driving up onto the land. We put in metal fence posts and added another wire so that I can eventually put vines growing along it.
Standing at the wall, you couldn't even see the road. I took out that little cedar, a couple of mimosas and all those weeds and vines.
I'm leaving some things in place, but now I have spaces for pawpaw trees in front of that wall, and some paths through the front. I spent a long time picking up broken glass from the old windows, which littered the ground. A couple of the panes still had large pieces of glass in them so I broke them out and hauled all the glass away.
That isn't the only hazard. There's the damned poison ivy everywhere, and I've had poison ivy rash on my wrists more times than I can count. I came up with a solution, though - I cut off the end of a sock and a hole for my thumb and wear them over my shirt sleeves and under my gloves. Sexy they are not, but they work. I call them my sock gaiters.
And then there is this guy. I was watching a humming bird and noticed a spider the size of New Jersey perched in a plant near me. I shudder to think of how many plants I have reached into never thinking I might encounter an enormous spider.
Not that any of that stops me. After I got the plants cleared out, I dismantled this big pile of cinder blocks, some of which I had to dig out of the ground. I left some in a circle for planting blueberry bushes, and rolled and carried the rest to the fence line.
I'm filling them with soil and strawberry plants. I got the first 21 openings filled with strawberries I transplanted from my house and will put wild strawberries in the other 18.
I cleared out the last of this upper portion today, and have staked out spots for fruit trees and berry bushes. Toward the end are a lot of wild blackberry canes, which I've left in place. I have already planted a couple of persimmon trees and an American plum, both natives. My goal is to also put in a couple of apple trees, a couple of crabapples (to help pollinate the apple trees),  a couple of pawpaws, and a bunch of blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry bushes. I also am going to try transplanting some figs from my house. It will take years, but eventually there should be all kinds of fruit growing here.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Not all Stepdad-Stepson relationships are tense one.

Two Fridays ago, my husband worked all day building a little bridge and clearing a trail. It was hot and muggy and he was tired. As he came down off the ridge, he tripped over a root or something and put a pretty good gash into his head. Blood everywhere. I don't do well with that, as my children can attest. I cried and wrung my hands. But pulled it together because I had to to get the bleeding stopped and some temporary bandaging in place.
But the next day, he was back out there, wound wrapped up, helping my son with framing. Last weekend, my son needed to run to pick up more supplies and he asked my husband to go with him. The store is about 45 minutes away, so they were gone for a while while I worked on other things up there. Later, my son told me he felt like the two of them were getting nice bonding time in. It absolutely warms my heart to see that happening.

Monday, July 27, 2020

My younger son's project.

Toward the front of the property is the remains of a little cement block house. All that is left is a front wall with two windows with the glass mostly broken out, and a bit of one side wall.
The cement pad that it's on was completely covered in weeds and vines and piles of cement blocks.
My younger son asked if he could build a tiny house on wheels on it and live there until we build. Yes! We all got to work tearing out plants, cutting down small trees, and moving blocks.
Finally, it was clear and he bought a trailer and moved it on.
It soon became a construction site. After a disastrous day when a storm sprung up and then we frantically sopped the water up with towels, my son set up tarped tents to shield the materials and trailer.
It seemed to take forever to get the platform ready. My son scrubbed the trailer down with a wire brush, primed and painted it and then installed floor insulation, flashing and subflooring. At first, he had a buddy helping occasionally, but was mostly doing all the work himself. He only has weekends and some evenings, because he drives for FedEx during the days.
My husband and I decided it was time to offer our services and the last two weekends we've forgone hiking to work with my son.
I say we, although it's mostly my husband. I can help shuttle the tarp tent on and off, pick up debris and hand things up to people, but I am not much in the way of extra muscle. Fortunately for me, the project I'm working on is just the other side of the cement wall, so I work there until they call for me.
This weekend, they made remarkable progress. My son designed the tiny house and has put a lot of thought into how to maximize space on an 8 X 16 platform that can only be 13 1/2 feet above the road. That's not a lot of space! There is a small storage loft high up on the end over the living room/kitchen and a slightly lower sleeping loft over the bathroom.
At about 6:30 yesterday evening, the basic framing for the area above the lofts was completed.
We rigged up more tarps to protect it from the forecasted storms and called it a day. It's been exciting for me to watch my son's vision taking shape and we wil be back at it next weekend.