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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Nature, red in tooth and claw

      Late spring in Missouri, I am learning to expect the full onslaught of natural forces. From tick population explosions, to voracious weed growth, to wild storms resulting in flooded roads and fields and mud everywhere, our world here spins uncomfortably out of control for a few weeks. Okay, maybe a month. I suppose we are not the only beings entering into the season with full energy to get growing and moving, but it does feel uncomfortable at times to be living outdoors in it all.

      Last week brought 6 inches of rain in two storms, one of which had our neighbors hitting their storm shelters and whatever glass-shatter-free safe zones they had indoors. It brought 90 mph winds, quarter-sized hale, and a heat lightning storm (lightning flashing every second, making for a strange strobe-like effect) that lasted four hours as I was counting before I fell asleep. We have been opting to weather out the fierce storms in our tent, mostly in order to help hold up the thin fabric walls from ripping apart in the high winds and to protect our campsite. I could feel hale driving sideways, hitting my hands in sharp pricks from the other side of the tent wall as I braced it. But fortunately the little thing held through the worst of it, as did our house frame, and we made it through with only a broken mug to show the damage in our outdoor kitchen of the harrowing experience. Though the next morning we woke to find our wood-chipped driveway full of little rivulets of runoff water, making their way down to our creek, having pushed all of our carefully arranged chips into a mass at the bottom of the hill. Argh. Still, as people in the area had much more serious damage to trees and roofs, I can't complain. An unexpected silver lining to all the rain has been that suddenly all of our dormant shitake-innoculated logs flushed and exploded in mushrooms! So we have been feasting lately. Plus the mulberries have popped in the first of the season's fruits, so delicious, very worth the purple-stained hands and mouth.

     As uncomfortable as it feels at times to be living in a soggy, tick-bitten, unpredictable world with little refuge in the way of shelter, it is also equally marvelous to be up close to it. To watch a giant blue-grey mass of storm clouds piling up and coming closer and closer, to wade down though the flooded field and watch the creek beds spilling over, to walk across a field and almost step on a giant black rat snake before its muscular scaly body writhes away, to witness the totally bizarre flight of a hummingbird's mating dance, or have a butterfly land on your arm.... all totally stop me in my tracks and thoughts with wonder. One of the most amazing natural events I have witnessed happened a few weeks ago when Mike and I were visiting our neighbors the Crawfords. We were out in the garden with them and their daughter Melanie chatting and doing little garden tasks on a beautiful breezy blue-skied afternoon when out of nowhere a frenzy of winds touched down in the pea bed and whipped up a big mass of straw mulch. This kind of thing may happen all the time without our seeing it, but the fact that the straw had been drawn violently up into the tumbling whirlwind made the normally invisible visible to us dumb-founded witnesses. We all had stopped mid-sentence, mid-task, and just stood riveted as the straw tumbled round and round, higher and higher into the air. We watched until we couldn't see it anymore, it had been lifted so high into the clear blue, some of it dropping delicately down to land on the tree tops in the distance. How did that come to be on such a mild calm afternoon? And so perfectly staged in front of us, the chance audience? I feel like a new pupil in the ways of the wild world, and I am learning to soak up the mystery of it all as it comes without definitions or easy answers, which my mind craves regardless.

     Okay, enough of the poetic! The brass tacks of what we have been up to lately with out little slice of  wilderness is that we have been putting in the floor on our house! After weeks of scouting out materials from local mills, people's barns, restores, and the like, we have spent the last week with my work-ationing parents (and guest star Aunt Jane) hanging joists and tacking on plywood underneath them to create what will be our insulated first floor. It is at its lowest point one foot off the ground (making for a tight squeeze, on our backs to get plywood hung), and on its highest point around three feet off the ground. Thanks to the help of my family, we were able to get the whole thing up in a week, and what a difference a floor makes in defining the "housiness" of a structure! No longer can we be mistaken for Missouri's largest and weirdest deer stand! The only problem with defining our first insulated cavity is that I have become a bit paranoid about mouse entry-points. No crack or hole seems too small, and we have taken some extra precautions to patch and reinforce weak spots. We also dug in our greywater pipes and exit-points from the house, burying the line away from the house a little ways to a spot where we can put in a greywater garden and fruit trees, (one day, with all the left-over energy we will have at the end of all this!) So now that we have drain pipes and floor in, we are beginning to think "walls," and with straw-baling season a few weeks away, we are right on schedule.