Before the weekend, Jim conveyed a number of pieces of machinery to the new property.The John Deere tractor, the bush hog, and the back blade have been kept busy on initial mowing and. clean up.
I'm always relieved when everything is safely off-loaded.
Jim set up his laser transit, only to find that after taking one reading the battery failed.
This lovely vintage transit is a real treasure--no gimmicks, no batteries!
Jim reckons this transit was 'top of the line' when it was made. When not in use it resides in a tidy wooden case.
Jim is not ready to mark out the site with stakes and lines, but wanted to shoot some preliminary grades. My job at such times is to march off carrying a measuring pole [whose markings make no sense to me] and then stand holding the pole while Jim makes calculations. I feel like a flag bearer standing at attention.
Jim estimates that there is slightly more than a mile of fencing on the property, most of which needs to be taken down for proper access to the building site.
This is a tedious job--nails to be pulled, boards to be stacked.
I stand by with an old plastic bucket at the ready so the extracted rusty nails can be tossed in.
Jim announced this morning that he was headed up the ridge to demolish more fencing.
My assistance wasn't required and the house was in need of attention.
I've never been known as a super housekeeper.
There are things about which I am particular: beds must be made within moments of the occupant leaving them; I can't abide dirty laundry languishing in a welter of damp towels and grubby jeans; dishes are washed immediately after a baking/cooking spree and after each meal. Bathrooms must be given at least a cursory cleaning each day. Cat hair is a renewable resource that must be dealt with. At this time of year, garden produce sits here and there in the kitchen in baskets and boxes awaiting attention.
My downfall is the ever present and accumulating welter of books, magazines, papers and sewing --at the end of the counter, on my desk, on the table in the alcove.
We have been out of the house so much in the past few weeks that nothing beyond the necessary basics have been done.
Feeling that I at last had a 'free' morning, I started by tidying the living room. I quite fail to understand why a man must leave cushions awry, throws dragging from the back of the sofa or easy chair, curtains twitched off center.
I set these things in order, stacked music and hymnals that I was guilty of leaving strewn on top of the piano.
I gathered documents pertaining to real estate transactions--the surveyor's report and maps, contracts, appraisals, piled them neatly on top of the printer.
In the alcove magazines were sorted, back issues put away in a living room cupboard.
I felt I was making good progress, but knew I needed to eat breakfast before continuing.
The chicken and pasta salad left from the weekend looked appetizing, but I decided to do a quick overhaul of the refrigerator's contents before sitting down to eat.
I had taken only two bites when I heard the diesel truck roaring up the lane.
Jim entered with a flourish and I inquired suspiciously, 'What? I thought you intended to work all morning on fence removal.'
'I've pulled the boards on another section and need you to come back with me to help pick them up.'
So much for house keeping!
As jobs go, it wasn't too demanding. My remit was to drive the truck with trailer slowly along the lane, stopping on command while Jim loaded boards onto the trailer.
The local country music station competed with the snarl of the truck engine; I twisted in the seat, watching for Jim's hand signals which I often don't interpret quickly enough.
He poked his head in the cab window to admonish me. 'Keep watch in the rear view mirrors and don't crowd the fence on the other side of the lane.'
I realized, belatedly, that he was loading the boards cross-wise of the trailer instead of length-wise and meekly eased the truck and trailer to the right.
With the boards neatly stacked and the trailer unhitched, Jim mopped his streaming face and took over the driver's seat.
'Now what?' I asked cautiously.
'Now we are taking a break, going to The Mustard Seed for ice cream!'
I was surprised when instead of returning to the ridge property [It is called Turkey Flatt] Jim headed to the house.
'I'm going to drive the Massey up--I need it to pull the fence posts. Give me a few minutes, then drive up in the truck.'
The 'few minutes' were time enough to serve 'tea' to the cats and wash their dishes.
I approached the Dodge dually with a bit of trepidation.
For years we seldom owned a car--an assortment of 4 wheel drive trucks were part of the construction business and, with the exception of Snort'n Nort'n, I drove which ever one was left in the dooryard.
Kentucky roads are very different from the wide open roads of Wyoming.
Here the narrow roads wind up, down and around; the roadway drops off at the edge, sometimes alarmingly so. Over-laden log trucks take their half of the road out of the middle; meeting one, barreling at speed, along a crooked creek road is [to me] terrorizing.
The red Dodge dually seems to me to be immense.
I was delighted to find that the seat adjustment works well! The truck has an automatic transmission--other than its perceived width, nothing could be easier.
I drove cautiously over the 'blind' hump in the road, eased out to the ridge road, and lumbered up the hill. When I pulled in, Jim was on the Massey, shoving at a massive fence post. He dismounted and explained that my part of the job would be to loop the canvas strap around a fence post, attach the strap to the hook on the front-end bucket, get out of the way while he heaved the post out of the ground, then remove the strap and shove the post away from the bucket.
By the time we had removed three posts I had found the rhythm of the task.
Loop the strap around the post. Tighten the strap. Slip the fold of the strap over the hook on the bucket. Step back. Move forward to the now dangling post [mind the post hole!] Unhook the strap. Push the post toward the side of the bucket [if it doesn't fall to the ground, let Jim maneuver it with the bucket.] Move to the next post, repeat process.
I am a rather clumsy person and advancing age hasn't improved that trait. Jim moves gracefully at his work, well balanced, coordinated.
I have to concentrate totally on the placement of my feet [don't trip] be mindful where to place my hands so that they aren't unwittingly caught; notice when the tractor is moving, don't be in the way when the post falls to the ground; watch to see if it rolls.
There were over 40 posts.
I've not done such physical work in awhile. Halfway down the line of the posts I could feel the strain my back and shoulders.
'Don't try to lift the post off the bucket,' Jim shouted. 'Give it a push and let it roll easy.'
I glared at him and shouted back.
'You haven't been my height and weight since you were about 11 years old! Nothing is easy!'
I was not allowed to help drag the posts into piles!
I scuffed wearily up the slope to the truck, discovered that I had forgotten my insulated mug of cold tea. Jim flung himself into the driver's seat, started the engine and turned the A/C on full blast.
He offered me iced orange juice from his thermos. I declined.
'What next' I asked--hoping that 'next' would be time to go home.
'We need to fill in all the post holes so that a deer doesn't break a leg crossing the field or machinery get caught. I've got dirt in the Massey bucket. You drive the tractor and I'll shovel dirt and pack it into the holes.'
I had counted the post holes on my way back to the truck--was it 42 holes--or 45?
I didn't want to drive the tractor. I didn't want Jim shoveling dirt in the heat of the waning afternoon.
'Use the John Deere with the backblade and drag dirt into the holes. There's a ridge left along the fence line and that will smooth it out.'
Jim doesn't like suggestions, but after a challenging moment, he took this one.
Back and forth along the fence line, clouds of dust rising behind the tractor, grass and weeds dragging behind the boxblade, but with each swipe the earth smoothed out, gradually filling in the deep holes. I walked along with a shovel, prodding at the edges of the most stubborn holes. The posts had been set about 18 inches deep, some of them stabilized with concrete.
I leaned on the shovel, watching, so tired that it seemed I might sink to the ground without the support of the shovel. My feet hurt. Weariness had settled into every fiber of my body.
Still Jim drove the tractor up and down, back and forth along the fence line. I would have called it good long before he surveyed the ground and was satisfied.
Several holes on the upward side of the slope needed to be filled by hand so as not to tear up the sod.
Jim handed me the shovel to carry up to the barn while he parked the tractors, stowed tools in the back of the truck.
'That would have taken twice as long if you hadn't helped.'
So, today I did rather more than the heavy looking on!
At home Jim headed directly for the upstairs shower.
I drank cold water, collected clean clothes, clambered into the downstairs shower.
The bliss of warm water rinsing away sweat and dirt. The scent of soap and shampoo, the caress of lotion on sun-browned skin.
Jim answered phone messages, confirmed arrangements to meet the electrician and a power company field rep at 8 in the morning, later to receive bids from two local concrete contractors.
I made a mug of tea, refilled a hummingbird feeder, settled into the porch rocking chair.
Hummingbirds darted in, tiny wings whirring. In the pasture of the lower house baby goats clambered over their climbing frame, small hooves clattering; their bleating cries rang on the heavy air. A Mourning Dove sang its ascending cadence from somewhere in the woods beyond the retaining wall; closer by another answered.
I set down my empty mug, kept the chair gently rocking.
It was a long day--one in which I worked beyond the limits of my stamina.
A demanding day, but one in which visible progress has been made.