Over the River and Through the Woods

But it wasn’t grandma’s house I was heading to. In fact, I’ve run out of grandmas, but that’s a story for another time. The bridge in the picture above is one I pass every time I head to the property from St. Louis. I’ve never stopped for a shot of it before, but today on my way out, I had to. It really is a scenic landscape, even if it’s a little too woodsy for some.

I know it’s stupid to release a blog post this time of night. And as I sit here with my eyes barely open and in need of a good rest, it’s hardly the time to write one. But I promised myself 500 words every day, and my brain isn’t in the mood for making up stories, especially when the true stories are so awesome.

I promised pictures in the last post, and I mean to deliver, so I’ve flooded this post with them so you can follow my journey. To get to the property, I pass through a tiny town of around 100 inhabitants, all of them very nice people from what I’ve seen. This region of the Ozark Mountains is known for such quiet towns, but the demographic isn’t what you might expect. The mix is actually pretty eclectic, from very conservative down-dressed farmers to younger people with wild hair, from vegans to carnivores, from nature survivalists to tech lovers. Every person in town is a unique personality, which sets this wonderful place apart from nearly every small town story I’ve ever read, even the hometown story I lived for 20 or so years. They are all very welcoming and kind, even to strangers, but they still know how to haze each other in good fun.

Shabbin
Shabbin

From the tiny town, which I won’t name for privacy purposes, I drive about five miles down a country highway to a rock-paved road, which carries me for the final 3-4 miles of the trip to arrive at the entrance, a quarter mile climb up the side of my micro mountain. At the top, my beloved shabbin (a cross between shed and cabin), which as I pointed out was filled with ladybugs. I still don’t know why they congregate there in the winter, but sure as carts to horses, they’re always there in the cold months, and the wasps will follow again in the spring, no doubt.

My "front yard"
My “front yard”

The “front-yard” view from the shabbin is now likely sprinkled with some remaining cedar trees which I trimmed instead of falling, but when I got here, the whole place was a thicket. That area seems to be the worst in tree density, aside from the slopes, but I won’t be clearing those. This view will someday be that of a lush field of multi-species pastures with playful animals separated onto paddocks, but as you can see, I have a lot of work to do to get there.

This was my first trip of the year, and the first time I’ve been back since the surgeries. And wouldn’t you know it, the temperatures at night got frigid, below 20 degrees. I really need to add some insulation to the shabbin one of these days, but between keeping the stove stoked, and burrowing into my 30F sleeping bag, the night was fairly tolerable. I even spent some time editing my monster book in the dark. The generator wouldn’t fire, and I suspect its gas can has been compromised, so I was on laptop battery last night.

Ladybugs Everywhere!
Ladybugs Everywhere!

I also found myself a little pet, sort of by mistake. There’s been a “rat” living under the shed for a while now, at least since last year, and she (I assume it’s a she, yet to be verified) has found a new place to build her home. I keep my wood stockpile covered with a tarp, and when I pulled it back, poof. Scared little rat that didn’t know what to do and froze. I’m calling it a rat, but it’s an odd looking critter, more like a gigantic mouse. It’s body is bigger than my fist and it’s a silver color with a normal looking tail. The closest image matches I can find on Google are for pack rats, which would explain why this loner always appears to be without a group. Maybe she’s just trying to get away from it all too. Normally, my instinct would be to rid myself of it, but it never bothers me, and it hasn’t really invaded anything except a firewood pile, so I left it be for now. With one small addition. The knotting on the protective tarp blocking the wind for it has been deliberately sabotaged, so perhaps during the next storm, it will decide to move to another locale.

Wood stove
Might look cute, but this little wood stove keeps the place warm in freezing temperatures

Why the hell would I let a rat live? Number one, I need to do research on every new species I encounter, and since it didn’t look like a normal rat, I was curious about it’s role in the local ecosystem, and didn’t want to disrupt it. Plus, it’s already been living in the area for over a year and hasn’t caused me any damage or trouble (though I suspect a bunch of its buddies destroyed the original temporary shelter). Owls and hawks eat rats, rats eat certain other critters, etc. Every choice on the property is weighed carefully, and though when I finally move in, there will be cats to dissuade such critters from moving in, at the moment the local ecology is seeing enough changes with the clearing process, and the rabbits in particular are loving it. (They’re moving into the brush piles like they are some kind of high-rise apartment complexes)

So, eventually, my little buddy will no longer be there, but I came out of the woods today, and before I left, I pulled up the tarp again. She was sitting, once again, on the stack of firewood, beside her nest, likely wondering if I was going to smash her. She can hang around for a couple of weeks longer, I suppose.

Camp Fire
There’s nothing like the first fire on a new trip into the brush.

I did get some work done yesterday, but this morning I ran the chainsaw through 3 or 4 tanks of gas, stopping in the middle to sharpen the chain. I also walked a large area of the hill where I’ll continue clearing from for the fruit trees, and work my way from there to the future pasture. The area isn’t as dense, so while I’m building my endurance back to previous levels, I’ll be able to see progression as I work. Each cedar tree in the area, when cut, will expand the clearing by 100-200 square feet, compared to the cabin area where trees seem to be stacked on top of each other, and literally killing each other for resources.

I also spotted one pine that was a sapling when I over-trimmed it last year, and it appeared to be flourishing. Pines are second in the sequestration process, grow quickly, and as such, can be a reliable source of fresh lumber for years to come. So for the moment, any pine tree growing straight and healthy will be trimmed and left to grow, and I’ll manage new saplings as they come up to replace the older trees when they are harvested. At least, as long as they won’t bother the animals later on. They are short needled pines with small cones, and if nothing else, may provide me with some natural pitch and lamp fuel later on, for various projects.

I knew that I needed to return to my property. You can’t manage your land without being present, and being a good steward of the local ecology is important for any kind of sustainable living. I’m still learning, and I’ll make mistakes as I go, but I have a plan and a purpose every time I make it out there. It’s a long road, but every step counts. When my back began getting stiff from carrying logs, I decided to give it a rest and allow time for my muscles to heal up. I hope to be out again soon, and I want to make a lot of trips this year. There’s so much to do. So much wildlife to see and hear. So much life to live, atop my tiny little mountain.


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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.

2 thoughts

  1. Your area looks cozy and nice. Nothing a bit of sweat and hard work won’t improve. Just be sure to secure your food or your rat may be dining well!

    Enjoy your posts…
    Lynn

    1. Thank for reading. Usually I keep everything inside except for a cooler that stays sealed. Going to try getting back out there this weekend again to do some more work.

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