We were out of the house quite early, , bundled into the truck and headed toward Campbellsville where Jim had arranged to rent a back hoe for the day. Since the rental establishment will be closed for New Year's Day, the machine can be used for a second day with no additional fee.
Jim unloaded the backhoe at the lower house and came clanking up the lane behind me as I walked.
The backhoe [rather small by comparison with one which J. owned during the years of construction in Wyoming] was needed to dig a trench across the gravel drive between the house and workshop.
The local power company will not install electricity directly into an existing structure--it has to first be installed in an outbuilding and run from there to the house.
This doesn't make much practical sense, but there it is.
[Note the helpful presence of Charlie-Cat who seems to be taking his transfer to the farm in stride.]
The trench has been dug and the heavy power cable laid down encased in conduit. Here it has to be passed through a protective receptacle and fed into the building where it will be
connected to the main box.
[I assisted by holding onto the free end of the cable, then going inside to keep it in place while J. joined the last jointed sections of conduit where they came out of the trench and up the side of the building. My one useful deed of the day!]
Filling in and compacting the gravel over the trench.
I have been fretting about the accumulation of horse manure and decaying hay left in the stall at the end of the carriage barn.
I suggested that perhaps the backhoe would be useful in digging that out.
[I did not present the job as something Jim could do, but as a task for the hoe!]
Jim had been complaining that the control 'sticks' on the machine were 'backwards' to any he had used before. this--and the small area of the stall--made for clumsy working.
After digging out several buckets full, it became apparent that the concrete floor didn't extend into the stall. Jim has decreed that the clean up can best be finished some day when he has the back blade attached to one of the farm tractors.
I brought the heavy rake and pulled out some of the spoiled hay and manure which had been loosened along the edges of the stall.
It seems to me that this might all become decent compost.
Willis, keeping a wary eye on the machine, was on hand to supervise.
Charlie, prowling along the retaining wall at the edge of the front porch.
Charlie is not reckoned to be be particularly bright--but he is a companionable sort.
In spite of sunshine and a brilliantly blue sky, the air had a chilly bite and I had been outside too much to keep the fire well stoked.
Jim trundled the backhoe down the lane while I scuffed along behind, beginning to feel tired, hungry and a bit cold.
I watched for a few moments as he began digging a trench to carry the power line which will be installed eventually at the lower house.
The machine stalled and in the lull I asked, "What would you think of having a pizza at The Mustard Seed?'
Jim, tinkering the machine, agreed that was a timely plan.
I trudged up the lane again to return with the van.
The interior of the little store was warm, we were the only customers at the moment, and our pizza was on the table in minutes.
An older man came in, one I recognized as having been in the store the day I was there inquiring for someone who could bury Pebbles the Horse.
Mr. M. got a soda from the cooler in the rear, then lounged nearby, telling tales of his mis-spent youthful escapades on his 'motor-sickle.'
I listened, entranced.
When Jim went to the counter to settle our tab, Mr. M. asked me quietly, 'Did you get Steve out to bury the old horse that day?'
I accepted his question for what it was--a neighborly curiosity for 'the rest of the story.'
Equally quietly, I told him that 'Steve' had taken care of that sad task, but that Jim hadn't much cared to hear the details.
As Jim turned from the cash register, Mr. M. began to tell us of a much-loved coon dog, whom he had insisted be put down gently when her time came.
'And then there's my cat, ' he went on'. 'Got hit by a car recently. Didn't kill him, but messed up his jaw. I had him to the vet, fixed him up. I've got 80 dollars in that cat now!'
We left him still telling tales to the lad minding the store.
Back at the lower house the backhoe started agreeably.
I drove up the hill, parked the van and let myself into the dusky kitchen.
I poked up the fire, drew a chair close.
I roused to sweep up a bit of mess on the floor, as Jim came in from the basement entry.
Time to head 'home',' to give the cats their 'tea,' deal with a load of laundry.
One of these days, we'll be sorted out, living at the farm, settling in.
Until then we go back and forth, keeping two houses.