Yesterday was another dank, gloomy day with dripping skies. The forecast had been for sun. (It did burn through at about 3 PM.) One of the loggers said to me, “How can you live here?”
The photo above shows the first pile of boulders Allen pulled from the lower field. Yes, we have photos again! I figured out how I could use our old broken family camera, with a combination of the wrong setting and heavy pressure on the case. It won’t take very good pictures but at least I’ll have a record.
It turns out I had been wrong about the loggers’ mood in the rain the day before. They were resigned and cheerful, fighting it out with the conditions like pros accustomed to handling anything. Here is the thrashed, muddy, soup pit by the barn.
All the area on the left had been a neatly fenced field. At first Allen and I grimaced with each new gouge (the ruts continue up the slope). But by the end of the day we were shrugging. “I’ll fix it when they get out of here,” Allen said.
The loggers had no choice. The tractor trailers have lost any ability to move in the deep, deep mud. The skidder drags each truck backward to the chipper and then forward all the way up the driveway to the road.
Watching the heavy trucks sway precariously (top-heavy and tipping) and slide in the mud made me grateful I wasn’t driving one. However the traffic of 55-ton loaded trailers didn’t do our little driveway any good.
After milking I hiked back to see the cutting, which at that time was almost finished. Yes, I know it’s a scene of devastation and mess but I was thrilled. This will someday be an 8-acre field. The shots pan from left to right. The mountains are hidden in the clouds.
I’d asked John, the cutter, to leave any maples for me. There were no maples so he left a half-dozen cherries. Having grown in deep forest the cherries are tall, thin, straggly things that look like something out of Dr. Seuss. “Firewood,” said Allen.
I had wanted to show Allen the clearing but couldn’t figure out how to get him back there. It was much too long and strenuous a scramble for him to walk. A normal pick-up truck would never make it over all of the stumps and old deadfall littering the ground. As so often with my mother, I wished I could pick him up and carry him.
He wasn’t terribly concerned. Land clearing is nothing new to him. However, when John, as I requested, cut a forty-foot “window” through the front screen of trees, opening up the long view to the back, Allen was pleased. We sat in my truck, eating lunch out of the drizzle. He took a bite of his sandwich, staring out the windshield at the view.
“Gonna look good, get that all cleaned out.”
“It’s going to look good when I get it all fenced!”
“Planted in grass.”
“With sheep and cows on it!”
I figured it would take him (on the excavator) and Damon (on the bulldozer) a month to clear up all the dead wood and slash.
“Nah, not that long. Week, maybe.” But he didn’t think we were going to want to burn after all. “All that wet, rotted shit will smoke like a bastard.” It sounds as if eventually we’ll bury the bulldozed logs and stumps.
He had pulled a spruce widowmaker out of the upper woods. It was too rotted for the loggers to chip so he added it to the pile. Since the law requires that burn materials cannot be longer than eight feet, Allen crushed the 40′ dead tree with the bucket and threw the smithereens on the fire.
He was right about wet rotten wood and smoke.
While I tended the fire, Allen finished rocking the lower pasture. He had decided to use the boulders to start refilling the gravel pit. As we don’t have a dump truck, he moved all the big rocks down the hillside in shifts.
Though I know Allen is an expert, watching the excavator lean over the edge of the gravel pit, to drop the heavy boulders in, scared me to death.
The naughty logging boys have figured out that I am a worrier. Yesterday when I was talking to them they would glance over at Allen on the excavator, grab my arm, and gasp. They thought it was funny to see me jump and clutch my heart. Still, I can see they worry about him too. “He was coughing bad this morning, all bent over,” they’ll tell me, or “Glad you drive down and get him, don’t let him walk up that hill.”
By the end of the day, the cutting was finished. The last trees are all skidded out and stacked by the log-loader.
All that remains is to chip them and haul the chips away. It is due to rain again today, but the loggers must fight the mud, drag the trucks in and out to be loaded, and then pack up the big machines to be ready for their next job on Monday.