With a big weekend of water project work planned and only 2 days on the schedule at the store the following week, I traded off my days so I could arrange to spend a week at the Harn alone. Dan would be up on the two weekends sandwiching this week and Mom and Tom would be up Sunday of the first weekend to see how the Harn work is progressing and to take Dan home for his work week.
This idea of being alone had me a bit concerned about how I would deal with any fear that arose. I’ve a long-held fear of the dark which has gotten better since my time at Dancing Rabbit but still does a number on me. I quit watching horror movies years ago… I don’t even watch the trailers anymore, but I still struggle with a very active imagination. So I figured, all alone, I’d conjure the worst. I had no idea I’d be facing something really frightening that was not a figment of my imagination or that I would face it and the aftermath as well as I did.
Dan and I prepped a temporary gutter into the southeast roof section to fill our garden cistern while Mom filmed and assisted and Tom “supervised” from the porch. Supervision included the requirement of a glass of red wine. 😉 We got it all in place and all we needed was some rain to fill the tank.
I was in bed early Sunday night and up early Monday to start some kind of project… I ended up installing a dishwashing system that I have had in my head for years. It turned out to work about as I imagined. We’ll see how it holds up over time. I also fixed some more open areas of the pallet floor and trimmed inside the large window – not an easy solo job.
I had a Skype meeting for Rec Lab Activities Monday and ended up at the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel for Wi-Fi when the Visitor Center closed at 5 PM. I was able to get a call into son Tom to check on the job situation. He’s making good progress. Sara came in after my meeting and it was so good to catch up with her after not seeing her for so long. We watched their farm in February but we didn’t actually see them then since we arrived after they left for vacation and headed home just before they returned. I chatted with her a bit too long as the drive home was at dusk and I had a near miss of two deer at the North entrance to the park and three more just after crossing 200.
The next day I piddled about and awaited the delivery of our trusses, steel and lumber for our shed project. Nathan from Hillside Lumber came by with our load and I got it squared away and covered in case of rain. But Wednesday was a fun day of picking wild blueberries
and raspberries with the Parthuns and taking my first plunge into Lake Itasca with Sara. What lovely refreshment! I am in love with this cool water. I headed to the Hostel to take a shower and Sara got me squared away to welcome in a visitor Thursday evening as she had a trip planned with the kids. Working out great that I’m here this week! Dinner that evening was cabbage, beets and squash from the CSA share, all cooked in foil on the grill to prevent a lot of dishwashing.
Yummy veggies with just a bit of Organic Valley butter and some light seasonings. I was in bed by 11 and, with no radio that day, had no idea what was heading my way. But then I’m not sure even those with a radio had any idea either.
I was awakened just after midnight by thunder and lightning. There was violent wind and I rushed to the light on the porch and ducked outside to see the storm. My sunflower was on its side on the stoop outside and rain was really heavy. Even though we just passed the full moon, it was pitch black. I ducked back inside just as the power went out at 12:15 AM. It came right back but flickered. I thought to grab the flashlight before going to get the clock to reset the microwave, now showing “ P F ”. Thank goodness because in seconds, it was black again. I listened to slamming sounds outside but couldn’t tell the source. It sounded like a slamming screen door on the west end of the Harn but we have no screen doors there. The back screen door opened and slammed of its own accord several times and I sat on the bed thinking how insane this idea of living in a steel box in the forest just might be. I chastised myself for being such a baby. “It’s just a thunderstorm! Pull it together!” But it sounded outside like the roof might just rip free. I huddled down sitting just inside the enormous three pane glass window, listening to what made me think of a tornado but not thinking of going to a more sheltered place. I finally calmed down and tried to go back to sleep. I decided against going out in the rain with my little flashlight figuring there wasn’t much I could do about anything anyway.
The next morning I awoke at 6:15 and headed outside to check for damage. There was debris everywhere… sticks, branches, leaves strewn about the yard. I could see two large pieces of insulation which had blown against the tree line from their place as a barrier we’d placed over the newly dug root cellar on the North side of the Harn. I dreaded looking inside as the rain from the previous day had added 3-4 inches, so I didn’t. Instead, I looked north into the woods astonished by the number of trees I could see fallen and leaning. There were dozens of trees just in my 135° line of vision. I looked south and could see a tree behind the garden cistern on its side, root ball sticking up like the toes of a mummy at its base. Looking further, a larger Aspen was leaning backward into the woods, root ball barely holding in place in our clearing. Good news for the light in the garden, bad news for the tree that was protecting my little Kinya’s grave. This is a photo from a tree out front along CR 2. It seems to indicate twisting winds to me…
More debris was found all through the clearing. As I rounded the corner to the hightop, I saw the compost bin on its side in the garden area and then the gray cabinet in pieces on the ground. The truck was unharmed but there were large branches strewn about. I saw two aspens down over the trailer and then looked South down the drive. Large pines blocked my way out. It was like a hedge was planted across the drive. I was trapped.
I texted Sara to let her know I was stuck but would try to dig out so I could make it to the Hostel that evening and then I went in to get dressed for some chainsaw work. This daunting task would just have to be tackled one branch at a time. I would cut branches and then clear, cut a bit of the tree out and then stack firewood in a newly created woodpile. I finally got to a place where I could get through to check the rest of the drive to the road and there found a third large pine across the drive. Argghhh!
Life in the woods, I guess. If we’re not working jobs off the homestead, such an event is not such a big deal; just a day of stocking up some firewood for the coming winters. But today, I had a place to be so I got to it. As I was assessing the third tree, my neighbor from down the road came driving in to the drive and up to the blockage. I could see the giant smile on her face and I was just as happy to see her. Char had brought me a lovely glass centerpiece. She said she’d seen it and thought it unusual. And she thinks me a bit unusual, so it was perfect. I agree! She was glad I was OK and I was glad she and Wyatt were as well. They lost a bunch of trees at their place – a few across the cow fencing – so they will be cleaning out tonight. Told her I’d head down to check on her later this afternoon. I am just so happy to have found this woman with so many skills, who I believe can teach me such a great deal, and to have found that she’s so happy to share with me. She is a wonderful gift to my life this year.
Had a second friend come by for a visit too. Megan’s all alone this week as her husband is out west doing a Permaculture Certification course so she brought her babies by to see me. Ike and Coda ran through the yard, peeing and pooping and doing what dogs do, as we assessed the damage and chatted about our storm experiences. She’s only about 15 miles pretty much due east of us but the storm didn’t hit her until 1 AM. It just hung and hung over Bemidji which received a lot of damage. When I spoke with Dan later, he said there was damage all across MN, from ND-WI, with major power outages from Bemidji to Duluth. There were a couple deaths in the Boundary Waters area. I can’t imagine weathering that storm in a tent!
Later that afternoon, I headed to Char’s to see her damage. It was amazing to see how the trees fell, especially seeing no damage from a major tree fall in her yard between the porch and her rabbit hutches… they couldn’t have gotten luckier. The tips of the branches brushed her garden fence but didn’t take it out. I could be crazy, but I believe our talking to our trees gives us an advantage. I think they take care of us because they know we love them. That flower laying on its back below the still-standing flag was mounted on #4 rebar – yes, bent to a 90° angle.
We walked her place and ended up at the raspberry patch where we ended up picking beautiful, large, luscious berries for about 20-30 minutes while we talked. Got two pints which she wanted me to take but I insisted she keep. I knew I didn’t have power and was hopeful she could put them in her freezer and save them. Dan showed up just as I was prepping to head to the Hostel. He decided to head to the Harn and see if he could get the generator started. There was a major line down a half mile south of us with trees across the line so we’re figuring it may be tomorrow before we get power. And he brought ice cream to celebrate my tough week…
Ran into the Park Rangers (kids) and they said Itasca Park has no power and may not until Tuesday… Got my Hostel guest settled in and turned him onto Harmony Co-op for some good food once he rides into Bemidji. He is on a cross-country journey from Seattle to Bar Harbor and he said he’s had no good café food for over 500 miles. All the little places in ND are closing down. He weathered the storm last night in Two Inlets, in a tent. Said it was pretty hairy. Even without power, he’ll be fine here tonight!
I headed back up to the Harn. Dan still had no power and we were wondering if we just wanted to head back south. Decided to sit on the porch and have ice cream soup for dinner while we thought about it. I gave Dan the most solid parts and then took the foamy liquid and added my fresh-picked berries. It was yummy berries and cream! We ate ice cream soup until we were sick!
We then walked the property assessing damage and headed out to the road. We saw the high line guys arrive at the neighbors and were happy.
Still, we were not counting on power for a day or more. We checked at the next door neighbors as we saw folks there. LOTS of tree damage here as well. Multiple large pines snapped off at their middles.
Power came on about 9:15 – 21 hours from losing it… then went out after about 2 minutes. Power came on for good at 11:15. Whoo-hoo!! We now had fans, dehumidifier, and fridge once again. It’s amazing how dependent we still are on electricity. Decided we might just get some work done after all.
We got up early to start framing for our water shed. While we are first-time builders for this sort of thing, we’d watched some YouTube videos and thought it through from Dan’s experience watching/helping Gary build our porch addition three years earlier. Our first post took us about 4 hours to get set. It was the hardest one being out in space as the West end of the shed addition/extension. We ate a little something then worked on the next post which took about 3 hours. Our third one was about 2 hours and we were beat after this one. We were 9 hours into the project on the hottest day of the year and we were out of gas. We needed a swim. After a dip in Lake Itasca, we were refreshed. We stopped for a quick candy refuel at Rock Creek Store at the North Entrance and were able to finish up the remaining three posts once we got back to the Harn. Only about three more hours of work so we definitely had improved our techniques.
We kept finding a cute little snake in the woodpile. He was adorable. I kept watch to assure we didn’t crush him as we picked up each consecutive post. We finished up as day was ending and darkness approaching. By 9:30 we had cleaned up the area and headed inside to take cover from the skeeters. We each took quick showers to wash off the stink and sweat and headed to the porch to relax for the evening. It’s hard to believe we got this job done on our own. I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished. We had some other little project work that is helping the Harn start to look like Home.
I sit this afternoon, watching the rain come down for the third time this week. It is filling our garden cistern which was at about 80 gallons before this latest downpour. As I write up this blog post, the weather goes from dark and threatening, to windy and rainy, to sunny with blue skies. The yard will again dry in the sun. And I will continue to contemplate all we’re in for as we make this transition.
It seems that every day brings new surprises. We get some work completed, we run into obstacles, we find time to rest, we cook, we poop, and we wash dishes and shower with as little water as possible. It is still hard to imagine how it will be once we have our water system in place. I’m thinking a gallon of water to do dishes will be a huge bounty compared to my current practices.
I’m starting to think about this transition as a grand 3-5 year experiment in alternative living. We’ll try it and find out how we like it. We’ll work to grow our food forest, to become more sustainable living with a smaller carbon footprint, to find a way of life that we hope will be more peaceful and relaxing, while it will also require more resiliency and diligence. It’s hard to comprehend what a “typical” week in the woods will entail. But I’m getting more and more excited to see our adventure unfold.