A chronicle of Mike and Julia's adventures creating a home on the Missouri range...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Pulse of Life

     We have been back in Missouri for two weeks now, and have very much hit the ground running. Thankfully, we have been surrounded by wonderful, welcoming community and friends who have been helping us in one way or another every step of the way. Part of what has softened our transition from cozy, convenient city living to scrappy, roughin' it tent dwelling on our land has been staying with our new neighbors, Brian and Terri Thomas and their two awesome kids, Ella and Everett in their rented house in town (read: hot showers and gas stove, woohoo!) We are all in the same boat in that we are all new-to-Missouri transplants building houses on our undeveloped land side by side, currently trying to transition into some sort of a comfortable temporary set-up to keep from going crazy from the mud, the bugs, and soon to be coming, the summer heat. So it has been nice to brainstorm and compare notes and building ideas with them, as well as catch up on all that has been going on since we left. Needless to say, we are pretty excited to have them as immediate neighbors since they are not only great folks to sit down and chat with, but also super skilled gardener-homesteader-craftspeople who have more than a thing or two to teach us!

Ella, Everett and the chicks
     We also have been very impressed with how they are integrating their two kids, ages 5 and 2 into this ambitious endeavor, no easy feat to be sure! Ella and Everett are very hands-on and help with lots of tasks like cooking (Everett mostly in the sampling department), planting seeds, taking care of their ten chicks recently acquired for the season. Chicks make even better kid entertainment than any game apps, and just about every evening, we have chicks wheeling around the kitchen on the backs of toy trains. Bonus: the chicks get comfortable with human handling, making it way easier in future months to tend them!

     While we have been sharing meals and a roof overhead in town, we have been going out to our land every day to work on our first projects and to get acquainted with how our land handles what is proving to be the wettest season we have yet experienced. There has been rain after rain after rain, infusing our softly rolling hills with little rivulets and lots of mud. It has been GREAT for our pond, which has filled almost to the top with water and great for our dam wall which is now sprouting with green shoots instead of eroding away (so glad we spent a week last fall seeding and mulching it!) The other totally fascinating feature of our land in this season has been our creek, which in its summer incarnation is a dry sandy ditch. We have always had a hard time imagine it full and running, much less, overflowing its banks and flooding our bottom land; but lo and behold, after two consecutive deluges, it did just that and a mercurial brown snake was ribboning its way around our land. Our lower field had standing water, and just about all of the ten acres to the east (woods side). We explored around in it, just dumbfounded at the elemental power of water to both knock heavy things out of its way (gravel, tree trunks, and our neatly mulched pathways) and infuse everything with a pulse of green life in its wake. Just as quickly as it came, it has subsided and by the time we got our camera out, the creek had sunk a foot or so, leaving vernal pools around for the frogs to spawn in.

Pond almost full!
A very swollen Bear Cub Creek, which weaves through our bottom land

     While we didn't have kayaks to go out exploring our flooded lowland, we did get to spend a day hiking and boating in nearby Thousand-hills State Park for our friend Beth's birthday, our first time there. No morels spotted yet, but Mike--the consummate mushroom enthusiast--is ever on the hunt. He also just took a two-night workshop on truffle culture, which he is now excited to add to our future farm-products list. Our visions are getting more and more gourmet by the season, since after completing construction of a wine-cellar for our friend back in Philly, we also have ideas about growing grapes and doing some home wine making. But everything in good time!

      For the present, our goals are set much lower and more immediate. We decided that our most pressing need was to create a more comfortable tent-covering structure with a shed roof and level floor platform. We jumped right into construction last week, using various lumber scraps we have scrounged together last season. We dug post holes (which promptly filled up with the swelling ground water) and used our auction-bought transit level to level the tops to one another. We used gravel to tamp around the post bases, which locks them surprisingly rigid. Some more scrounging resulted in used plywood and roof metal, a few needed 2x6's and rafters and by the end of yesterday we were done. I can't believe we went through one whole season on the land without this structure, and am already grateful to have the rain-cover and shade that it will provide us. Also, thanks to a gift from Mike's mom, we have a new tent to set up next week, minus the holes and broken zipper of our old one. 2013 Missouri season, here we come!

Our finished tent platform! Tent will go in the right bay, benches and table in the left bay.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring migration underway

We have gotten some reports of late from friends who have been checking this blog for signs of life, and have come away disappointed after discovering our lengthy winter hibernation away from blogging. Well, faithful followers, here we are, emerging from our winter cave-abode in Philadelphia, stretching in the spring air, and setting our tires west once again for Missouri!

 It has been a long, weary winter in the big city in many ways, as Mike and I have been working (renovating, painting, constructing) almost non-stop to save money for the coming season on our land. But we will need every bit of it, for as our friend Glinda recently wrote to me, "this will be a marker year for you on the land, for sure!" and I believe she is right. Our list of projects to tackle in 2013 is long, not the least of which is cutting and erecting our house's main timberframe, the skeleton for all that is to come, and capping it with a roof. In a few days we will be cracking open our storage shed, setting up our (reinforced) tent, cooking all of our meals in our yet-to-be-constructed outdoor kitchen, participating in weekly rotating work parties in our community, planting a very modest survival garden, and battling the ticks, mice, chiggers and the rest of the usual gang out on our land! I can hardly wait!

So there are lots of posts to come for sure, but in the meantime, let me leave you with the vision that keeps us going in this crazy endeavor, our plan for Giving Tree Homestead...