A Quick Little Weekend

We spent a whole weekend with no killer project we had to complete. It was wonderful.

We traveled Thursday to Auburn, making a brief stop at the farm to eat lunch and to harvest a little veg to take with us to Auburn. We had a delightful visit in Auburn at the home of Michelle’s parents, got to hear and meet Joe’s boss Daniel Tosh Thursday night, and visited both Thursday night and Friday morning with Michelle’s parents and our grandson Smith.

Friday we were leisurely about getting away from Auburn. We arrived in Tallassee late in the morning and went straight to town to check the mail and pick up lunch. After lunch we puttered. Amanda weeded in the garden while I installed the wireless keypad for the automatic gate opener. Unfortunately the keypad isn’t working correctly. It closes the gate fine but will not open it. I spent a fruitless and frustrating afternoon trying to get through to the people at Zareba who could help me, only to find out late in the day that the (apparently) one technician at Zareba who can help me with this had already left for the day. So now with Labor Day coming up nothing gets done until Tuesday at the earliest. Needless to say, Zareba is not high on my list right now.

I was working on a couple of maintenance chores under the pole barn roof when I heard it begin to rain. Our modern houses have so many layers between the humans in them and the roofline that we often have to guess at whether it has started raining. That’s not a concern in the pole barn. There’s 3,000 square feet of sheet metal over your head, and you know immediately when the quietest of showers begins. And if you’re ever there in a gully washer, it can only be characterized as a roar.

Rain’s not a bad thing at all when you’re under the roof of the pole barn, but it’s less fun when you realize you’re alone under that roof and that the woman you love is out in the rain somewhere. Tried calling her on the cell phone; no luck. Hopped into the nearest vehicle that would carry her, the Corolla, and set off in search of her. Here’s the video I shot when I found her.

Saturday morning, while Amanda cleaned up in the shop and the storage room, I started cutting with the chain saw. We have known for several months that the two sweetgums standing on the southern tip of our planting area probably needed to come down. One had lost its top in a recent storm and has been furiously producing green shoots from the lower portion of its trunk to compensate; and there was another nearby that looked likely to do the some thing in the next heavy storm. So I took both of them down and cut them up into our regulation 17″ lengths for firewood. Cutting that green sweetgum reminded me of my running conversation with my brother Dave Gray about burning sweetgum for firewood. He thinks sweetgum won’t burn, that it will just sit in the stove and make us frustrated. The wood stove manufacturer says sweetgum will burn okay, though, so we’re forging ahead. I’ll feel foolish indeed if Dave Gray turns out to be right. We’ll end up throwing away a lot of firewood! Should know something soon, because there’s plenty of sweetgum even on the first 2-3 pallets.

I collected the sweetgum branches and threw them on Tractor’s pallet forks for the short trip to the current fire pile. One day we hope to mulch those branches on the spot, using a towable mulcher Dave Gray has promised to lend us. For now, though, it goes into the fire. In that same area was the oak log I had moved there from Veg Hill, so I also cut it into firewood-length segments.

On a roll from the progress with the chain saw. I decided to take down the two stumps that have been worrying Amanda on Veg Hill. Let me remind you that I Hate Stumps. Stumps can make a sharp chain dull and a dull chain into an efficient device for torturing fat guys who sweat a lot. I just can’t stand cutting stumps. I beat away at the first one, a 16-inch sweetgum, and finally got through it with the benefit of a reasonably sharp chain and not-inconsiderable profanity. That left the smaller (12 inches) but tougher oak. Started whacking away at it and eventually decided to break out a new chain. That was a good idea. Only problem is that I now have about four dull chains.

I had an epiphany the last time I had my chain saw worked on. I left the saw with the good folks at Bob’s Power Equipment near our house in Vestavia Hills for several weeks so they could fix a problem with a fuel leak. They fixed the leak, and in the process they sharpened my chain. Wow! What a difference it made! I don’t know how they sharpen a chain; I can only assume they use some kind of machine that really puts a keen edge on the cutting surfaces. In any event, I’m not going to spend much time any more trying to sharpen my own chain; I will let the pros do it with their magical machine. I’m going to buy about three more chains, have Bob’s sharpen all the ones I’ve used, and just keep a supply of fresh chains. When I feel a chain beginning to dull, rather than try to stop and sharpen it myself, I’ll just change it out with one of the newly sharpened chains and keep cutting. Then every now and then, I’ll take the dull chains to be professionally sharpened.

I finally finished the stumps about 12:30, so Amanda and I drove to town to get some lunch. We had talked for a while about Dillards’s Country Store east of East Tallassee, between Tallassee and Notasulga, and we had hoped that it might be useful as a feed & seed. It would surely be more convenient than Farmers Feed over in Wetumpka. So we decided to drive out to see what they had. We were disappointed in their merchandise. It really doesn’t look like they’re in business as a feed & seed. However, Amanda did love the fresh local eggs she was able to buy there for $1.75 per dozen.

We ate lunch at the China Garden on the way back into town (heavy, typical Chinese buffet, just the kind of food Lee loves and shouldn’t often eat). And as soon as we got back to the farm I set about cutting up the “Big Sticks” (the logs left over from our clearing and stacked somewhat haphazardly near the house site). I made good progress on them, and I have now built up an impressive pile of segments ready to be split, but there are still 10-12 of the Big Sticks remaining. I’m now ready to commit that during the next week or so, barring an equipment breakdown of some sort, we’ll (a) fill the last two of our firewood pallets and (b) finish cutting up the pile of Big Sticks. What I’m not able to promise is that they will come out even.

I had moved the splitter from its normal perch on the pallet rack, so it’s ready for use now on our next trip to the farm. When we split wood this time, I’ll begin mixing up the smaller easy-to-handle pieces with some good-sized chunks that we hope will prolong the fire overnight. That’s per the instruction of Ken Craig at Professional Chimney Service. When I invited Ken to critique our firewood supply, his only criticism was that I was splitting everything down to a small size and that I might want some larger pieces that would burn overnight.

While I was wielding the chain saw Amanda was busy cleaning up Veg Hill, picking up buckets full of other people’s trash left there over the decades. Will we ever stop picking up other people’s trash? Probably not. She said that during the breaks of the chain saw’s noise, she was able to hear the hickory nuts dropping on the ground. It’s that time of year.

We knocked off a little early so we could drive back (filthy, of course) in time to watch Alabama play its season opener against Virginia Tech. Fortunately, the Tide prevailed. This always makes Amanda better company.

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