Today was officially the hottest day of summer so far. Over 100 degrees, capping off a week of sweltering high-ninety weather. It hasn't rained in a month and it would be fair to say that we have been feeling a bit wilted during our first week back in Missouri. Has this fact, or Mike's neck injury, set us back on our homesteading plans at all? It would any sensible person, but not us, since apparently we are unreasonably hardy and determined. Usually we would not have pushed as hard as we have this past week, but a rare opportunity presented itself... we were offered the help of a work party of volunteers on Friday, which meant that we had five days to finish the timber-framing section we were working on before we left if we wanted their help moving it and setting up the next section. "Yes!" I foolishly thought, "let's go for it!" Our amazing, fearless, slightly-crazy-like-us, homesteader/builder neighbor Beth volunteered to help us build this week and offered up her strategy for beating the heat... get up and start work at 6 am, go until noon, quit until 4, and then finish when you can't see anymore, around 8. So that is what we did, all this week, hammered and chiseled and sawed our butts off, heat be darned! (In case you are reading this and having alarm bells sounding in your head regarding Mike's mending neck, be not alarmed, he sensibly did not push himself as hard as Beth and I and resigned himself to cook duty and what you might call "timberframing-lite," the detail work minus the heavy lifting).
|Proof, thanks to our neighbor Beth|
The 6:00 AM strategy worked well, giving us two sweet hours of cool work weather before the sun reared its blistering head over the tree canopy to start its daily frying. Beth had another great strategy for this stage of the day, which is to jump in the pond with your clothes fully on and then let yourself air dry. Strangely, this works wonders, producing literal air-conditioned cooling as the water evaporates in the breeze. Repeat every hour as needed, and we got ourselves through the day. Last night, the night before the crew was to arrive, Mike and I succumbed to power-tool temptation and finished trimming the legs of the section with a chain-saw and power grinder, a much more expedient version of what we had been doing with hand saws, but we were finally done. Whew! I don't think we will be choosing to work under such pressure again. But as you can see in the photos below, the work party came and moved section #2 (first picture above, laid out on pallets) and set up section #3. We celebrated afterward with watermelon in the shade, which always tastes so much more sweet when it comes after a hot day of work. We are taking the afternoon and weekend off to let our blisters heal, though I can hardly imagine picking up a chisel again come Monday. Still, we are getting much better and quicker as we go. Within a month the frame will be standing (God willing!)
Some folks from the work party also helped me go around the do triage on our little tree saplings who are badly in need of water. We hauled buckets of water from the pond and got a good section of them watered, but we could really use some rain soon. The ground seemed to suck up the water, sometimes with an actual gurgling sound as it ran into cracks. It is hard to see their little leaves drying up or turning fall colors prematurely. Part of our planting strategy was to plant twice as much as we hoped would make it, knowing many wouldn't, but of course I have been hoping they all will anyhow.
Last, and best, one of the surprises of coming back this past week was discovering a whole new round of wild flowers on our land that we had never before seen. This was most likely because last year we had such a serious drought that not many wildflowers got to the flowering stage at all, but the abundance of spring rain this year primed a flush of blooms. Purple rough blazing stars are especially abundant, even on hills we thought almost nothing grew on, as well as stiff sunflowers, which grow in thick masses up against the burgundy staghorn sumac. I have used some of these to make natural fiber dyes, like purple ironweed and various sunflowers, as well as the sumac berries. Elderberries are my favorite range of colors, from teal to periwinkles, and Mike has some ideas about making elderberry wine and jelly, we shall see. What the conservation department has told us is that these and other native prairie grasses and flowers all thrive in the hot season, as opposed to cool season grasses like fescue that have been introduced as feed grasses for livestock. So somebody is out there in enjoying the weather! Well, keep fingers crossed for rain and send cool thoughts our way!