We move out on April 23rd. We rent a Uhaul and put our stuff in storage. I've got an Explorer that's practically packed to the roof, with tools, camping gear, books, and food and clothes. In the little bit of space above I put all the pots of seedlings. On top of the car I strap down a black futon. My back is killing me from moving furniture for some reason. Getting old I guess (I'm 33). There's no way I'm working day after day and sleeping on the ground. If there's one thing that wears you out in long-term camping, it's sleeping on the hard cold ground. Foam pads are worthwhile for about a week.
Hot, rough, and empty. The small blue tarp beside my tent in the second photo is Mishka's (our white shepherd's) crate. Here's a closer shot of it:
There's no way he's sleeping with me because the first thing he did when he showed up was to roll in shit (for some reason he thinks it's a wonderful fragrance to wear, especially around his neck), and he's covered in ticks.
The next morning is a brand new day. My daughter Brooke goes walking up the creekbed and discovers flowing water. She runs to get me. I get the camera and we all hike up. There are even little waterfalls!
We go on another hundred feet or so, step over a barbed wire fence, and come to the source of the waterway and it's a spring. The water's flowing out under some roots. There's a clean gravel pool right beside it which will be perfect for filling up water jugs. Here's a picture of the spring:
There are many wildflowers along the creek, violets and bluets and cinquefoil and pink wood sorrel. The violets and wood sorrel are great edibles. The clearing above is loaded with chickweed and plantain - as far as edible weeds this place has it all.
My daughters set up camp across the creek from each other in their old North Face tents. The zippers have been replaced with velcro (kids are hard on tent zippers). There's a bridge between them, over a very deep pool. Brooke says she put a stick in and the pool is two feet deep.
We walk on down the creekbed past our tents, a way we could never go before because it was so overgrown. Now it's open and it's a beautiful little valley. We could actually build something in here, maybe a little shaded cabin. We encounter one gigantic old growth red maple, that I have the girls stand in front of [Brooke left, Rachael right]:
It's a lush place, almost totally level. We'll have to do something with it at some point. The kids want a treehouse.
We walk back up to our clearing and set up the 12' x 12' bughouse around the fireplace. It's nice and shady and gives us some place to go to sit down and relax. The concrete blocks also stay nice and cool:
The bowls are Mishka's food and water.
I set the seedlings out on the old sawhorse table I'd put up last year. It's just two old sawhorses I found behind the pumphouse with boards across them. The seedlings are doing very well:
Every time we go into the pumphouse a bird flies out. Above the top plate over the door is a small nest. I get out the ladder and we climb up and look. There's five tiny white eggs, about the size of those little egg-shaped chocolates wrapped in colored foil you'd get for Easter. We have a hard time getting a clear photo, because it's so dark in the pumphouse. So Brooke (the youngest - it's her camera) took a short video. I'll try and upload it:
One of my building books, ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BARNS, SHEDS, AND OUTBUILDINGS, a great how-to, with a lot of step-by-step photos, has a page on fixing PVC pipe. So we drive the three miles down to the hardware store in Sunbright to get pipe and cement. There's a young guy from Ocala, Florida at the counter. We chat a while. He says this place is boring. And there's a big Meth problem. I always hear that about rural areas.
After two attempts, I'm able to fix all the PVC and we have water again! The kids play with the hose for a while, and water the seedlings. Here's a photo of it fixed:
There's a huge pile of old lumber in front of the barn, that I guess was abandoned after the fire. Most of the boards are rotten and unusable. I few might work for little projects. The girls and I move them all over to the wood pile I'd made last year with the charred and blackened boards from the fire. Here's the boards:
I also found huge blocks of cement. I guess it's Quickcrete bags that were left out and set in the rain, then the paper blew away. I'll use them in my rubble foundation. Here's how the site looked after we cleaned it up:
We came across a bunch of worms and snails and huge slugs, and the soil was black and rich underneath these old boards. I'd been reading a lot about permaculture, and how if you can just shield areas from the sun, you allow the life to flood in to break up and enrichen the soil. And of course the boards were also acting as mulch as they decayed.
Nothing's worse than running off to the woods to dig a hole every time you have to go to the bathroom. I came across this book HUMANURE, and I plan on trying everything he recommends. I especially like his cheap low-tech composting toilet for humanure. Basically it's this simple - you shit in a bucket. The bucket has sawdust, or peat moss, on the bottom, and every time you go you cover it in a layer of moss or dust. This eliminates all odor and keeps out insects. We're using peat moss, until I can find a mill where I can get free sawdust. Everything goes in to the bucket - shit, piss, toilet paper, everything. Once the bucket's full you take it out to your compost bin, there deposit it, cover it with something like straw, rinse the bucket, let it dry in the sun, then use it again. It's that simple. With this type of compost, it's best to build an actual bin, rather than set it out in random piles. I'm going to build the 15' bin he shows in the book, with old boards, once I clean out the rest of the garden.
The straw (you can use grass clippings also, or anything similar), besides burying odors and keeping out bugs and animals, holds the necessary moisture in so everything degrades properly. After one year of piling it all up, with the addition of fruit and vegetable scraps, and one year of letting it sit and compost, you then have the best fertilizer in the world, totally safe and nontoxic. It makes perfect sense to me. You either create sewage, a dangerous waste, or highly fertile compost, it's your choice. Our property has a septic system already in place, but we have no intention of using it.
Here's our rather primitive toilet for now:
In town I'll get some plywood and build a real toilet. It's essentially a plywood box to hide the bucket, with a real toilet seat on top for comfort.
Junk Bee Gone is delivering another 15 yard dumpster, so I can haul out the rest of the trash. I'm not looking forward to shovelling trash again, but it needs done, and when I'm through I can plant the seedlings.