Thursday, May 30, 2013

Windows 3.1 in the garden shed

And lo, the winds came and the sun shone and the swamp began to dry up, and as these things came to pass, so did the long-awaited garden shed begin to rise from the mud.  I'm trying to build it with leftover materials around the place, though some 2x4s and other things had to be purchased from the local Southern States folks.  The siding is a faux log profile, milled for our 2007 log home's second-story dormers, left over from construction that year.  The log house burned but not the extra dormer siding, and there was enough to cover the 12x8-foot shed with a 4-foot porch.

The windows came out of a century-old farmhouse a couple hundred feet to the north. The old house is in the process of returning to the earth, but in it I found two half windows, reglazed the panes and painted them with a coat of primer.

 I have also rebuilt two five-panel doors from the house.  Thought they were identical when I pulled them out, but later realized they were different sizes.  Still, with a little trimming and a lot of green paint, they look more or less the same from 50 feet, if you squint real hard and close one eye.

Then there's the roof.  I had planned to use some leftover asphalt shingles on the roof, then thought about using some recycled sheet metal that might come off our house to repair some hail damage from last year. A friend offered a pile of sheet metal from his own roof-replacement project, so there are options galore, just no time to put any of them to work.  After all, this project started with the need for a better field fence, and so far all I've gotten done on that job is auguring the holes and planting the posts in more mud slurry than firm dirt.

But at least the windows are in.  Next big decision: how to mount the doors.  Stay turned.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life's a ditch

My father used to joke about how sometimes things go from the ridiculous to the sublime. I think I know what he meant -- such as that day a year ago when I was putting together some raised bed garden boxes in a snow flurry in a biting March wind. It was so absurd I had to laugh -- and it's doggone hard to laugh when your fingers can't even hold the long screw I was trying to bore through frozen wood.

This year it's the standing water in the garden, which just keeps on coming out of every once-dry seep, intermittent spring and bog spot on the hillside above us.  Trying to build the new garden shed in ankle-deep mud has been a pain in the neck and a nuisance in the feet.  The new fence posts stand in water, and it looks like it could be weeks before I can tamp down earth around them and start stringing up the new field fence.

So the last couple of days I've been digging little ditches, trying to lure the water away from the garden and into the tall grass that seems to jump up a couple of inches every day -- and laughing about the utter absurdity of trying to dry out a garden whose main problem too often is not enough rain.

These ditches are shallow little muddy drains, but they working. At least they've got moving water in them, all leading away from the garden.  But so far there's no sign of any drying out in the areas where we hope to plant a few rows. There seems to be plenty of water yet to seep out of the hillside -- and the weather forecast is for more rain.  My weather gauge says we had another two inches since Saturday, and there's little sign of a dry spell ahead.  Well, as least we won't be whining about a drought for awhile.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Swamp on the mountain

A little over a week ago I was drilling holes with a tractor-mounted augur to put up a new field fence around the garden.  Beat the dickens out of trying to dig a hole with a shovel or a post-hole digger -- known around these parts as a man-killer.  Took me two weeks once to dig eight post holes for my barn.  Took about two tractor hours to augur up 22 holes worth of dirt and Patrick County rock and some gray gooey looking stuff.

I stopped the tractor when that gray clay came up and looked into the pit. What I saw was water moving across the bottom of the hole, gurgling its merry way toward the creek about 15 farther down the hill.  Had to dump a bunch of rock into the hole before that treated post sat in a firm foundation.

Then a few days later the clouds moved back in and it rained more than seven inches, according to both a cheap and a pricey gizmo that measures rainfall up on the ridge, about 400 feet west.. Then it cleared up and wind blew and the sun shone -- all the things that usually mean overly dry conditions.

Except in the garden.  We got water everywhere, and seemingly more of it every day. It started first with standing water in the postholes.  Then there appeared a quarter-inch of standing water in the mulch between the lower six raised beds that we built last year in the southwest corner of the garden.  Now it's standing around and below the new garden shed -- the not-quite-half-finished new garden shed, that is. I stepped in one spot and went past the ankles before I remembered how to levitate out of a jam.  It is, to use technical terms, mooshy where it ain't gooshy.  And in the row crop part of the garden, the stain of surface water has advanced uphill about 20 feet. Water's rising, looks like.

I don't know, but I think I'm going to put some mooring cleats on the deck of the garden shed and open a marina where pleasure craft can tie up.  Maybe get me some striped T-shirts and build a gondola so I can get down to the broccoli patch and back without risking miring up to the garboard strakes.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Might come a shire

One summer long ago I worked for a waterwell driller down in Guilford County with a some colorful characters from whom I learned a lot.  All of them could use forked sticks to find wells. One of them specialized in using bend welding rods.  And one of them fancied himself a weather forecaster, able to forsee the thunderstorms that made working on wet pipes and drilling rigs a challenge during the hot steamy months of July and August. Every so often he'd look over his right shoulder, point backwards with a stubby thumb and observe, "Might come a shire back over yonder this evening." That last word came out this way: "thisseevnin."  I'm not making fun of the man atall. That's the way a lot of people talked where I grew up, including many of my own family, especially when it was fixing to rain, or at least shower.  And if it was fixing to shire, you'd want to know about it, too, so you could be down off that rig or up out of the pumphouse when the thunderstorm broke and the lightning began to fly.

About 10 days ago we started getting our own version of Guilford County shires when the fog began closing in and the easterlies, which brought a lot of moisture up against the Blue Ridge, began blowing that fog at a steady 10 miles per hour.  When that happens, you don't need it to rain, because everything gets wet anyway -- cars, houses, dogs, gardens, half-built garden sheds, blueberry patches in need of mulch, muddy asparagus patches that need cutting and particularly 67-year-old men with bad knees and grumpy dispositions.  I've been rode hard and put up wet ever since, with hardly a chance to dry out.

Sure, the sun has peeked through a time or two, but usually only long enough to entice you into thinking the weather improve.  It will, it will, just not any damn time soon.  That whatever-storm-it- was that brought snow to the Midwest is now lashing our part of upper Patrick County. The temperature never got out of the 30s yesterday and the wind chill gizmo pegged the chill factor at 29.  It blew porch chairs all over creation, made a small lake in our little front yard and thoroughly soaked everything in site. Even the trees have started to warp.

Word is that this storm might blow itself out by, oh, Wednesday or Thursday.  Well, we have learned up here to also ask, Wednesday or Thursday of what week?  Next? Or the one after? I asked a veteran weatherman the other day when we might finally have some normal temperatures and dry air.  "Once the cutoff low wobbles out to sea next week, I think we may get a few days of warmer/drier," he replied.   Well, that was last week. Now it's not so clear, because if it does warm up, there's another cold front right behind it. 

Remember that warm day we had back in April? I think that was our summer.  It feels like it's already fall, and soon the leaves will drop and the ice and snow and sneet will return.  I'd hurry up and get my firewood up -- if only this shire would let up.