21 June 2011

Home Sweet Home Away

When we first bought Piedmont, a solid half of it was covered with brush, trees, weeds, and scrub brush. The only way to make your way through most of it was by following the deer and old cow trails. Most of the time, ducking was in order, lest a beheading took place. When you're ducking down below branches and bent at the waist half the time and sticking your arms and legs out in front of you to knock down spiderwebs, it feels like another day and time. It feels like you're a kid again and playing in the woods and using your imagination to conjure up all sorts of things.

We eventually decided in favor of extra pasture space for the cows and horses and began the process of cleaning out all the underbrush. We just kept the big, old trees that we found hidden in all the mess. I couldn't wait to see what it would look like when it was done...all sloping grass with aged oak trees scattered throughout. And now, we're years on the other side. It seemed like such a daunting prospect, and now, it's the norm.

We knew when we bought Piedmont that it would require a lot of work, a lot of expense, a lot of time, a lot of love, a lot of sweat, a lot of labor, and a lot of work. And also? A lot of sweat. And patience!

I had so much fun, pre-bulldozing, crawling through everything and hunting out the big, beautiful trees and marking them with a gigantic "X" for saving. I guess an "S" would have made more sense, huh? We do sometimes miss the privacy that all of the brush and undergrowth provided, especially when camping, but I think that having the grazing room and giving the trees more room to grow won out in the end.

And on the plus side? Coyotes can't hide in the big, clear open! I never expected to run across that particular brand of four-legged animal on the one afternoon I decided to ride my bike down the dirt, rutted road instead of just walking or jogging. I'd seen snakes, raccoons, possums, birds, deer, horses, cows, dogs, and cats...but no coyotes. Until that day, anyway. As I rounded the bend on my very old, very used bike, I came within about four yards of a scraggly dog. I thought, "Man, that is one tall dog. And he looks funny. Wait a minute...."

Yah. Coyote. We were both frozen on the spot. But not for long. Within seconds, he was running back into the woods, and I was pedaling back to our end.

Once everything was cleared out, it was time for the big bonfires to burn everything. We had a pasture party, with friends, family, and lots of BBQ. It was so much fun, just sitting around in camp chairs and talking well into the night, watching the fires burn. It's amazing how beautiful the clean-up can look at night! In the morning, however, you're met with a different scene. The remaining piles looks sad and ashen, and they're still there, waiting to be buried or hefted away.

There's always one more thing to do and one more project to start on. It's really daunting sometimes. I often think starting from such a blank slate is even harder than fixing up a place that's crumbling down around you. With The Blake Slate, there's always that worry in the back of your mind that you're putting something in the wrong place or doing it wrong or that the layout isn't going to pan out over the years and if other buildings, animals, and fences are added, will it still be functional? With a place that's already set up, someone else has done that job for you; whether they've done it well or not, it's done.

So many days, less than halfway through, I found myself standing under the nearest tree, t-shirt sleeves rolled up to my shoulders, hair wet and sweaty under my cap, and hands on my hips while I tried to catch my breath, just waiting for the pounding in my head to subside. It never ceases to amaze me how my husband and my daddy can continue to work in the heat, with seemingly no break, while I nearly crumble like a rotted twig after such a short time.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all this guilty I-Feel-Like-We-Deserted-Piedmont rambling is:

Dear Piedmont,

We'll be back. Please be patient with us. We'll soon come for longer than what it takes to check up on everything and feed. As soon as the farmhouse no longer looks abandoned from the road, and as soon as the baby girl gets a little bit bigger, we'll be there for weekends full of camping, cooking out, swimming, riding, and sweating. Pinky swear.

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