Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Preview of the Near Future

Thanks to a week of rain, I really don't have many barn updates. The corner posts are in, but that's about it.

Four 16' 6x6 corner posts sunk ~3' into the ground

Fortunately, with the exception of yesterday, this week (and the extended forecast for the foreseeable future!) looks fan-fuckin-tastic weather-wise and things will hopefully power forward in spectacular fashion beginning tomorrow.


All the same, I did manage to have a pretty fun weekend with more horse time than I've had since Biltmore. In fact, I rode said Biltmore-horse for the first time in 6 weeks. #constructionpriorities

See, on Wednesday evening Q did a Dumb Horse Thing. She wasn't paying close attention to anything more than her grain pan that she couldn't quite reach and managed to thwap her face on the corner of a nailed in 2x6 that has literally been present at this same place for the past 7 years I've owned her.

This was when I noticed it. As minutes ticked by, the skin
pulled back a bit, opening the cut wider. However, I'm opting
not to share those photos since many are squeamish about
images that show more tissue than this.

In fact, I didn't even notice the cut for several minutes! I saw her shake her head in discomfort twice after thwapping it off the Very Obvious wooden column, but I discounted it telling her, "Yep. I bet that smarts, dummy. Should have paid more attention." (Kenai regularly thwaps his schnozz off obvious objects, so I'm a bit conditioned to just shake my head and ignore the clumsy behavior.)

But then, as I walked by Q at a slightly different angle I noticed the cut. I poked and prodded it a bit, which she didn't mind much at all. If it had been on my own body, I'd have butterfly bandaged the thing and called it good. But me being a bad patient doesn't mean my horse should be one, so I called my vet.

I ended up discussing options to stitch or not stitch with two vets at the practice and five people at the barn (why does everyone tend to "just show up" when something like this happens?) plus Austen via text. While stitching it would be best to help keep flies out (the vet said it would only be two stitches), the simpler option was just to keep it clean and keep Q in a smaller paddock with less opportunity to rub it on something.

Knowing my weekend was jam-packed with four house guests and multiple parties each afternoon/evening limiting my ability to drive to and from the barn to check on her, I opted to just bring Q home over the weekend for some solitary confinement and a bit of riding.

"Q! We're building you a barn!"
"This is not a barn. These are branchless trees and rocks and dirt." Q, probably

It was so, so lovely seeing Q as many times as I wanted throughout the day, loving on her, tending to the wound, and being able to swap her winter blankets and fly gear as needed with the weather/bugs.

Yes, winter blankets. Canaan has two seasons, July and Not-July. On Thursday night we were treated to literal inches of cold rain + a steady wind in the upper teens. Despite tree cover, when I checked on Q at 6:15am, she was shivering. So I tossed on a cooler and rain sheet to help her out, then went back out 50 minutes later to swap those for her medium weight blanket which she happily wore until 1pm when my ridge transitions from Scottish moor to mountain paradise.

A moment of partial fog clarity. You can soooorrrta see the barn amidst the fog and glare on the window.

And then, it dropped to 37°F Friday night. 🤷 Welcome to mountain life.

Fortunately despite the weather, Q's cut looked better and better with each passing hour. I'm really impressed with how clean and quickly it's healing! The peace of mind I had from bringing her home to keep an eye on it was absolutely priceless.

48 hours post-injury
5 days post-injury with alu-shield on the wound back in her field with flies
Why no fly mask? Because I don't feel like throwing money away because
I know the other horses would help her pull it off her face and then hide
it somewhere in the vegetation on those 28 acres. I'm excited to have them
home where I can apply fly masks and shoo fly leggings and easily retrieve
them if/when they're removed by the horses.

Additionally, we had a great weekend with lots of one-on-one time and two rides: one conditioning ride of 6.3 miles with 1151 feet of climbing and one dressage ride that I ended by making Q climb the mountain on the road at the end.

Heading down the mountain. The pink strap is a bridle throatlatch I
modified to be a collar for the weekend that had my phone number
on it. With the winds we had and my general distrust of our
almost-domestic white-tailed deer that like to screw around with
everything, I figured it was best to mitigate chance of the temp
 fence failing and her getting out by providing a means for someone to
find her and call me.
All smiles realizing this is going to be my new norm
Trucking through high goldenrod praying we don't encounter a fawn
A pretty stretch of mature trees
Enjoying some views along the way
Can't believe I get to call this home! Or that I can ride here from my house
Pinks are in bloom everywhere
They're so vibrant and beautiful. Tiny but gorgeous
Our house and the barn site from the far side of the ridge. You can see in this photo where my mowed lots begin. They differ
from the golden rod patch Q and I are standing in.

It was so freaking fun to have a preview of what life with the horses will be like in a couple weeks. Seeing them multiple times a day, caring for them, mucking, feeding, and riding whenever I have a few spare moments. I just keep pinching myself to make sure it's real!

Stay tuned for what I hope will be bigger and more exciting updates on the barn next week...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Dirt Ballet

I had hoped to provide this update on Friday, but then my computer up and died. Most irritating thing in the whole wide world. I'm only grateful I had all of my photos backed up. Sobbing a bit over the loss of my Lightroom catalog (which hadn't been backed up to my external HD in quite some time), but I will suffer that loss knowing I do at least have the photos and can re-edit as I need in the future! ...and you can bet'cha I'll be backing up ALL things more often in the future to try to mitigate any future technology failures. Ugh. Technology, I hate you and I love you.

At any rate, onto more fun topics!

Like the big hole that was dug in my yard last week!


It probably doesn't look dramatic to those who aren't as intimately familiar with the land as I am, but OMG. When they started digging down to grade it was quite a shock for me. I mean, I knew this would happen, but it was so different IRL. I just couldn't fully picture it in my head spatially prior to the initial cuts.

With each progressive scoop, my thought process was something like, "Shit, that's a lot of dirt. Shit. That's a lot of dirt! Shiiiiitttttt! That is so much dirt. OMG. There is no going back. This is a thing and it is happening."

But let's back up a little bit. Because one does not simply start digging dirt for such a project. At least not on a mountain in West Virginia where there are slopes and trees to contend with!

So, as I last updated, the excavator arrived on June 7 and got a jump start clearing trees:

Friday's progress

And while I was at work on Monday, they finished clearing the trees, sorted the trees into to-be-milled and to-be-firewood piles, ripped the stumps out, buried some stumps, and burned the remaining stumps and branches.

What I arrived home to on Monday
Welp, guess my trees are gone!
Smoldering remains
Trees used to obscure this view!
Right of center is the road bench I've discussed in the past. Trees used to line the uphill edge where I'm standing straight
toward the remaining trees visible in this image. I think we cleared a total of 20 trees for the project.
Gorgeous large cherry that will be milled for the interior of the stalls (I wear a size 7 glove for reference lol)
Another beautiful cherry
I sent this to the excavator with the caption: The direwolves have claimed the throne. Long live House Stark!
He loved it.

On Tuesday, they cleared off my top soil in preparation for the real earth moving to begin. 

Now, I know my development was once a 200-acre farm. And I know we've got some decent soil for a ridgetop. My neighbors lawns that are only mowed and not treated otherwise are LUSH. But watching my topsoil pile up as they separated it made me realize I don't just have decent topsoil. I've got some dank ass topsoil. No wonder the yards and pastures that remain on this ridgetop are so damn nice!

Look at that topsoil! LOOK AT IT. OMG.

Even the excavator noted to me how damn nice this stuff was. I don't think I'm going to have much extra, but if I do I plan to do a partial trade for my hay with it. The perks of buying hay from a landscaper! lol

Once the topsoil was cleared, they set up their surveying tools to figure out how much they'd need to excavate to reach grade. The answer? 7 feet.

That both sounded like a LOT and not much at all. I knew it would be okay in the end, but I definitely couldn't visualize what exactly the "end" was at this point! Fortunately, I trust my excavators completely and knew all would be fine whether or not I could imagine how it was going to end up.

And so, the dirt ballet began.

20190611 Barn Construction_38
Father in dozer, son in excavator, dirt ballet in progress.
20190611 Barn Construction_3920190611 Barn Construction_57

Repetitive scoop after scoop of the excavator and push and shove of the dozer proceeded as the father and son team expertly danced the machines around one another in a beautiful and powerful dance.

By the end of Tuesday, they were halfway done with excavation.

It doesn't seem like a big drop, but keep in mind that machinery isn't exactly little!
The dozer is basically sitting in the future barn.
The front of the operator seat and the arm/bucket are in the future dry lot
Because why not?
The sunset was really starting to glow. Never mind that the windchill was in the 30s later this night...
I had to! Still need to send this to the excavator lol
Friday afternoon, Monday night, and Tuesday night.

And by the end of Wednesday, things were looking really nice. I could not believe the change by the end of the day! It really came together beautifully.

Wednesday mid-morning
Wednesday at lunch
Wednesday evening
A Kenai for scale. 
Dekalb loam soil for anyone curious
Standing on the sculpted track down to the road bench looking toward the house. Still some topsoil left to spread up top!
Road bench incline down to the left. The bank in front of me in this photo will become a much gentler slope down into the
pasture when they finish.

It was so much easier to see how things would come together after they finished Wednesday. With the exception of a bit more earth sculpting where the dry lot will release into the far pasture, things with the earth moving are pretty much complete.

Despite being lucky with weather all week, the rain finally made an appearance on Thursday, prohibiting hopes of finishing that final bit of earth work or spreading gravel.

On Friday after it dried out a bit, they did manage to get one load of gravel dumped, but then they had to pull the dumptruck out of the site with the dozer due to the soft ground.

One load of stone...

As a result, they opted to finish spreading the stone Saturday morning.

Unloading the second load of stone in two piles for easier and more uniform spreading
Boom! That's gonna be my barn!!!!! Also, note the new lumber shipment lol

And that's where we left things at the start of the weekend.

The excavators will be back after their contracted duties are complete at my future office site in about 2 weeks. At that time, they will finish land sculpting, install the French drain, the trench for utilities, and complete my dry lot. In the mean time, Dave has a nice graveled spot to begin work on the barn!

My assignment this evening, other than oggling over whatever Dave has managed to accomplish will be to get the banks that won't be disturbed again seeded and mulched. Eee!

Can't wait to continue to watch things unfurl and provide y'all with an update soon.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Seredipitous Start

I've lost track of the times over the years I've shared something in this space only to have things reverse themselves within 24 hours of posting. But you know what? In this instance, I'm really not gonna wonder or complain much about the hows or whys!

Late Thursday, right as I was about to flip my phone to airplane mode for the evening, I received a text from the excavator:


I stared in disbelief for a moment before sharing the news with Dave. Fortunately, Dave's fumbling to set up a contingency schedule for our previous 3-week delay hadn't resulted in any hard plans yet, and he was able to accommodate this new schedule to the new barn schedule. HUZZAH! 

I can hardly believe my good luck that my future office was delayed for just the amount of time we need to get my barn project off the ground. I had previously been concerned that Dave's schedule of jobs was going to get all cattywampus with the excavator's delay, thus resulting in a longer delay. It's beyond serendipitous that things are working out this way.

And so, on Friday as I sat peacefully reading a book in my living room, I heard the telltale whine of a heavy engine and looked outside to see the equipment arriving. Never in my life have I been so overjoyed to see heavy equipment.

Excavator + extra bucket heading to parking spot
Barn will be just downhill from front of excavator

I wasn't certain if they would start on Friday or not and had planned to head to town to run errands, but after they returned with the dozer, I heard the drone of the engine and opted to hangout for a little while and watch. 

See, while I spend a lot of time working on the environmental side of construction (reading project descriptions and analyzing how the action may impact the environment directly and indirectly), I rarely see this kind of thing in action. It was SO cool. And so very practical! I knew it would be, but still, some things you can't fully comprehend until you actually watch them happen. 

He just marched down there and started plucking trees out of the ground as if he was picking flowers
And boom, suddenly the treeline looks different
Limbs in one pile, trunks in another, stumps in a third

The day reached a point when I knew I was going to have to head to town, so I sauntered over to speak with K before leaving, "This has been SO COOL to watch!" I grinned, approaching him. "I sit behind a desk and don't get to actually watch this kind of thing so much as read about it. It is completely FASCINATING. Your son must think you're the biggest hero in the world because you get to play in the dirt and tear shit up every day."

K, laughing, "He does. And yeah, this is pretty much how the start of any construction job goes!"

We discussed the project a bit more before parting ways for the weekend.

What a difference an hour makes....

They're back out there today, though I'm unfortunately not teleworking with my birds-eye-view of all of their progress. I don't expect them to do much more than finish clearing the trees today because of the rain in the forecast. Though I can't wait to see the progress when I get home!

This is just step one of the process, but I am so very exciting things have started. It all just felt so surreal before. To see things happening and to watch the landscape change makes it all feel so much more real. I hardly have words for my excitement...

More updates to come later this week as things progress!