Sunday, May 6, 2012

Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!

On the way back to North Carolina, Jeff and I had a LOT to discuss. We had just handed over a large chunk of our retirement savings to a lawyer in Catskill, NY in return for the deed to 25 acres of old, neglected dairy farm.
As we traveled south, I could feel the temperature and the humidity creep back up into the 90's. I had just left the relative cool and dry air of my new property and did not look forward to returning to the heat of a southern Indian summer. 2007 was an unusually hot year, and I was ready to pack everything and leave, asap. With 4 children in school, however, one of whom was due to graduate high school in 2 years, it just wasn't practical to pick up and leave in the blink of an eye.

So I had to be content with scheming.

I mean planning.

"So what kind of house do you want to build?" Asked Jeff.
"A log cabin? Are you sure?"

Silence. The rumble of the diesel engine filled the cab of the little Jetta.

"Not a clapboard farmhouse with a wrap around porch?" He inquired.
"No. A log house with a big, wide porch facing the western mountains. One with cathedral ceilings and a loft. I want an open plan with a stone fireplace and big windows to let the breeze in...a walkout finished basement with an area for my quilting. I think the garage should be attached to the main level and not in the basement so when we get old, we don't have to walk up the stairs with grocery bags." I paused to catch my breath. "Oh; and all the doorways need to be wide enough so I can walk through them with a basket of laundry and not bang my knuckles on the doorjam."


"So you've thought about this, I guess." Came the reply.
"Ok. Well, we'll start looking at floorplans, then. What do you think we should do about the pond?" There was a break in traffic and Jeff looked over at me.
"It needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Those cattails are beautiful, but they need to go. A few here and there are fine, but they're taking over." I answered.
"Yes, and I think the old dairy cows did some damage to the edges- it's kind of broken down there. It wouldn't surprise me if the nitrogen levels were pretty high too...I think it's a good idea to clean it out and start from scratch." He said.

The pond as we found it in September, 2007. As you see, cattails have almost entirely filled it in and only a small area of water remains in the middle.

A large bulldozer was brought in. The size of the pond dwarfs it!
Getting the big excavator as close as he could.
Clearing a visual path.

The dam breaks and old, dirty water is released!
We crossed the northern border of North Carolina and prepared to finish the final leg of the 11 hour drive. Plans were made to contact a local excavation company and get a bid on doing the work. We wanted all our projects to be done by local companies; another part of our sustainable plan- to give all work to area tradespeople and thereby help contribute to a viable, self-sustaining local community. A driveway had to be cut in off the road as well and we asked the company owner to include that in the scope of the work. Permission was obtained from the DEC, to ensure that our work would not damage any contiguous waterways, and work was begun!
Since we were managing this project from 700 miles away, we asked the Excavation company owner to take pictures for us. He graciously agreed and went above and beyond; providing us with a daily visual diary of the work as it progressed. The pictures you see were taken by him.

This first big project was a little daunting. It was not an inexpensive endeavor. But it was the first step we had to make in order to bring the farm back to life. As I look back, I am filled with a sense of purpose, satisfaction and gratitude. Those feelings, by themselves, are to me, priceless!

The resident Jurassic snapping turtle seems to be annoyed.
The spring-fed pond begins it's return to viability!

Our fish-filled, sustainable pond as it looks today!

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