What a weekend!!
Every so often at the property, we need to clear trees. The first big clear was for the pole barn location and that was pretty grand. The second big clear was when we thought we were going to put a cabin closer to the road, which turned out not to be our plan in the end, but we are going to be using that cleared area for hoop/greenhouse space within the next few years. This phase was to provide clearing for a house garden and water storage, along with clearing some trees to allow light for the garden area.
We arrived Saturday evening after swinging through F/M (Fargo/Moorhead for those not from these parts) for the Celtic Festival where our friend Mikko Cowdery was playing. Mikko & Friends is an eclectic mix of folks, constantly changing but always delightful. As we got there early, we had time to chat with Mikko a bit and see some of the displays. The Celtic Festival is a small affair but well-done. Lots of activities for the children and amazing food (the Concordia chef was on hand). We listened to the pipes and drums which opened the event, then investigated the Viking ship and wandered a bit. Mikko also told me the tale of the serendipitous way he’d spent the previous night. He and the group were practicing in the café at the hotel and there were a few kids close by playing games. As they played, these youngsters became interested and Mikko and Doug asked if they wanted to learn a song. They did! So the guys taught them a few ditties with Chuck playing along on his penny flutes. They quickly realized these kids could sing. It turns out they are from the Robbinsdale-Armstrong Choir! The group of 6 turned into 12, then 20 and then 40. It was a grand sing-a-long and it was joyous to hear Mikko sharing about it. Doug too shared with us later at lunch and then, just as we were leaving, Chuck also gave us a run-down. I think those kids and those old guys had a magical time.
We too were in store for some magic as we sat down for the Mikko & Friends hour of playing. They started off with a couple fun ones that we knew so we were able to sing along. Then, just a couple songs in, these kids started wandering up to the stage. In all there must have been 75 or more kids piling up on the stage in rows behind the quintet (Annie O’Flynn, Michael Cowdery, Doug Tatge, Michelle Wencl & Chuck Wencl). Then they began to sing and it was phenomenal. They did Hard Times, Galway Girl, and many others. They kids were so happy to be singing and the elders were so happy to have accompaniment. I don’t think Mikko & Friends has ever been such a large crowd! We were blessed to be able to enjoy it.
After the kids left, Mikko & Friends wrapped up with a couple more, including The Unicorn Song, one of my favorites from the days of summer at Camp Shawano. Then came The Long Nines, the Burckhard family from Aberdeen, SD. While we grabbed a quick bite, they set up. Dan & I shared a combo meal which was the perfect amount of food. Dan ate a banger, the soda bread and bread pudding while I chomped up the other banger, mashed taters, kraut, and roasted veggies. Yummy!! We headed back to stage for the Long Nines show and then watched as they wrapped up with Mikko & Friends joining them on stage. What tremendous performers. Definitely will be seeing them again when we get the chance. We will have a chance to see Mikko & Friends Friday March 18th at the Quad A. Hope to see you there!
The ride to the Harn was uneventful, full of rolling prairie, an eagle, and some trumpeter swan flocks. The scenic route from F/M to DL to Alida was quite relaxing. When we arrived, the Harn was 42°F while it was in the 60’s outside. We fired up the stove to take off the chill, eventually getting it up to 82°F before bed time. We warmed blankets on the exhaust tubes and rolled into bed with them, noting the spring ahead on the clock – already losing time! Since everything in the Harn was still cold, it was in the low 60’s when we awoke. Not too bad! We slept in a bit and, since Dan is the early bird all week long, I took time outside while he rested some more.
I have been reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer so wanted to be respectful in our harvest, asking the trees permission. I sat with the trees explaining what our plans were and asking for their help in getting this done. I promised them we would value their sacrifice and make sure they all went to good use: some building up dirt, some providing housing for local critters, some for firewood for our home, and some for hugelkulture. I sat and listened for some time. Then I walked to each tree asking if it was willing to help by giving its life. I had asked for them to be clear to me since I was new to this. They reminded me that I’ve been talking to them for years and I reminded them that I had only been diligently listening for a short time. But it was clear to me. I could feel the trees that wanted to stay and the many that were willing to fall. It was a most humbling experience.
When Dan was up, we talked about our plan. How to fell the trees and who would do what. This time he would be our chainsaw operator. I would be working the loppers. Drop, lop, drag, and chop. That was the plan. We carefully felled each tree, trying to drop them through each other and into clear space without hitting Harn or shed and without getting hurt. It was amazing work with only a couple trees trying to spin or having too much weight in the wrong place making it hard to control. But each tree fell where we wanted, within a couple feet. Only once did we fear damage as we felled one of the larger trees we were dropping between the Harn and shed (a space of about 12-15’), with three trees in between, trying to thread the needle. The tree fell in a good spot but had a large enough canopy that it shattered with some debris hitting the shed. No damage done, just a bit nerve-wracking!
We spent some time considering the garden clearing and left more trees than planned so they can act as our garden fencing. We realized there is no way to have a garden in the middle of the woods without fencing. In fact, in that area there were easily 5-6 fresh deer scat piles and one more discovered Monday morning, which I think was fresh that day. Once the garden clearing trees were cut, we lopped the branches, added them to our large brush pile at the south side of the clearing, and pulled each naked trunk to the pallet area across the driveway to cut them down to logs for the fire. The smaller trees and some branches were piled along the south side of the garden clearing to create a barrier along the path where we will someday have a hugelkulture. We also made a smaller hugelkulture area inside the garden area with very small pieces. The plan was to chop trunks into logs and then pile them in the clearing north of the drive. This will be our 2017-2018 wood pile. Or maybe we’ll keep it for even later. We have 2 cords of the wood pulled from the south clearing in 2012 that is ready to burn any time so we may let this age longer.
We headed next to the east side of the clearing to cull trees for allowing sunlight to the garden area and for a space to place the 750 gallon water tank. We will be pulling water from the south roof of the Harn above the arctic entrance and screened porch. The guttering will allow for catch of this water and we’ll run a channel over to the storage tank from there, so we want it to be pretty close. This water will be used for the garden and outside plants. We ended up cutting a few more trees than we originally planned in this area. And we had too much process work to finish this weekend, so we’ll be back up soon to get that work completed.
We did a few last minute tasks and headed for home back at Mom & Tom’s. I was so lucky to have Thumper join us this morning. He was in his regular place at the end of the drive, thundering away for me throughout the day. He thumped just as we were leaving and I thanked him and told him we’ll be back soon. There is much more to be done but being at the Harn also provides a relaxation that I get nowhere else. It is a joy to be there.
And what a joy to be home! When I asked Mom if she & Tom wanted to join us for Pizza at the Depot, she said, “Of course! It’s Pi Day!” Se we all went out for some good pi(e).
Happy Pi Day to you all!