Bridge Building

Wow, what a productive day!

and i woke up somewhat reluctant to show our faces to the daylight, having been up until quite late with a coven-related pit-fire of some ceramic pieces. that went well, and was extremly fun, and involved raking through the coals late in the night to locate all the pieces, and the pieces of pieces, and what with it all we weren’t down till midnight. i’ve never run a pit-fire before, though i’ve helped with a couple, and it went better than it could have, and about like i expected. four of our six pieces broke, but we found enough components of all of them to put them back “together” for our Grounding on tuesday. i didn’t have seaweed to smother the coals with, as the instructions i was working with specified, so i used somewhat-fresh weeds, which sort of worked, but i wasn’t fast enough on the layering before getting the pots into the fire, and consequently the material caught fire before we had the pots in. oops. they all came out black, but some have shiny bits here and there, almost silver-black. next time, i’m going to make saggars of heavy-duty tin foil. the highlight of the night was when we tossed a pile of weeds on—and the fire leapt up bright purple, green & blue! we speculated about it for a while, before discovering some old rusted baling wire among the coals. then we went searching through the woods to find some more old rusty baling wire—this is not, after all, a scarce commodity around here, and goodness knows it’s not good for anything else. but we weren’t lucky (and we weren’t in the barnyard, which is where it all is, and where the wire-bearing weeds had come from), and there were no more spectacular fire effects.

but we timed the work party right this morning. & were got moving when alan & i made it into the house, and we were all caffinated, breakfasted & outside handling barn tasks (in my case) or getting ready for the bridge-building (in Alan’s case) by the time folks started arriving. i chased the chickens out into the garden for the day, said hello to Amy & , and dashed back to the fire circle to collect the wheelbarrow and put our pottery away. and then basically launched into digging. i dug all day. a lot of people dug either for hours at a time, or intermittently throughout the day.

today’s work party was unusually well-focused. i think it’s the first work party we’ve had where we only did *one* task instead of breaking up into groups and doing four or five things. and wow did we do that task, and well! we were building a bridge over the acequia, on the north side of the property. but you have a bridge, already, you say. that’s true—we have a rickety pedestrian bridge, that we could repair to the extent of making it a nice pedestrian bridge, and we probably will get around to that at some point. but not only can it not support a truck, it is dreadfully inconvenient to use it as our primary and *only* pathway to the back 2/3 of our property, and will become less and less convenient as we start to undertake major projects back there, like lowering & leveling the field so we can flood-irrigate it, and building a house in the wayback. not to mention, every time you walk back there casually, you deal with dogs, chickens, goats—and gates. very important, gates. especially with dogs, and goats. so, we wanted a way back that allowed us to drive a giant trailer load of straw back there, and also to get a bobcat back for the land-leveling, and get the truck back whenever we want to move something, and just be able to walk back there without contending with the dog unless we choose to do so.

so. this was a collaborative project of the highest degree. a month and more ago, employed his amazing superpowers of Finding Free Stuff, and acquired 20 feet of 18″ culvert. we are making a 15′ road, so this was about perfect. and it fit perfectly in the acequia. and he also found a coupler for it, to join it to the acequia gate, where our ditch opens off our neighbors’ ditch.

so today, we attached the coupler, cleared the area where the culvert was going to go, which included backfilling the ditch a bit where incoming water had dug it out, and then, at Renick’s extremely well-informed suggestion, acquired some concrete pieces that were in Scotty & Mona’s backyard, and which they had been wanting to get rid of. we put the concrete under the area where the culvert was to go, so that it would brace it and keep it from sinking and making a puddle right there (where it had previously made a puddle, around, in and through which puddle alan and others worked all morning). a win/win situation on the concrete scraps there; they were unwanted by our friends, and extremely useful for us. glad to help out. *grin*

but seriously. this was SUCH a collaborative day. Alan led the project, Robert got the culvert (for free), Matt brought us rocks (in exchange for leaves—good trade), Renick had extensive knowledge about how to install such things and what exactly was required for the engineering of the situation, Scotty & Mona supplied the concrete and brought their wheelbarrow for the day, Lynn brought a wheelbarrow, Kay & Tristan trimmed back the mulberry tree that had grown through the fence that was partially blocking access to the acequia, Amy un-wired some very sturdy fencing (and fell in love with our fence pliers), Bex made a nice rock wall & water-outflow area at the end of the culvert, Jenny & Bex made lunch for everybody, and myself, Mona, Robert, Lynn, Apple, Bex, Jenny, Ezra, Amy, Michelle & Alan variously dug a lot of clay out of the ground…in our two up-and-coming garden beds, thereby finishing the digging for the cold-frame bed, and getting my hitherto utterly unstarted perennials bed half-finished, all in one day.

I’m sure everybody did more things than i’m thinking of there, too. And those digging projects? were enormous, and we weren’t at all sure how or when we were going to get them done. But having put the culvert in, the next step was to make a nice rock wall along the far end, the floating end, and then cover the whole thing over with clay—the rocks holding the clay in on the side that didn’t already have a nice dirt berm to do that. So we dug out the rest of Alan’s 4×8 cold frame bed…and it’s dug. it’s done—it’s a pit, very nearly 3′ deep. now we can go get a truckload of compost, commingle that with some topsoil and clay, and fill it back in. then build the cold frame over the top—that’s much less work than the digging. and then we can plant things in it! beets, spinach, lettuces, kale! carrots, potatoes, more beets! chard! and if we can get that stuff in the ground by October 15th, we stand some chance of actually keeping it going and eating it all winter.

and my perennials bed is likewise ambitious. it’s a half-circle, from one end of the pump house to the far end of the kitchen shed, and behind both of these. that makes it adjacent to the front door of the yurt. it’s about 20′ long, i think, and 8′ wide or so at its widest point. this morning it was a vague idea; now it is 9″ deep, with more loosened and ready to be removed in some areas, and all the clay that came out if it (and our land is ALL clay—if you think i’m kidding, you should come down here and build some pots out of it—or try to grow something in it) went onto the bridge.

And the bridge? the bridge is done. not partly-done. not done with a few trailing ends of little projects to clean up. done. the *road* is not done, but the bridge is. and that was everything today could possibly have encompassed, and more.

i’ll post photos in the morning, but i wanted to write it up tonight. i dug all day. this was the first time i wasn’t “point” on any projects at a work day, too (i’m pretty sure—it certainly isn’t common). it was our most focused work party ever. even on Barn Razing day we had other stuff going on in the garden the whole time. which i was point on. :) the work was mostly unskilled, so anybody could do it, and it involved both sunny areas, and shady areas, which meant anybody getting too sun-overdosed could retire to the shade and still feel productive if they wanted to. and, as Bex pointed out, and then emphasized, it gave everybody a sense of visual progress, all day. whenever anybody stopped to take a break and have some gatorade (we went through three gallons, plus water), they could *see* how much we had done in digging the beds out, especially the perennials bed, which had not existed at all when we began. and once the culvert was in, that project got very tangible, very fast.

and it was extremely well planned out. Alan planned the whole project weeks in advance, and that is something we are going to keep doing! we knew what each step entailed, and what to do next, all day. because of the pre-planning, we were able to clear off small extraneous blocking things before hand, like removing most of the fence from that section of the acequia, and moving & sorting a large pile of sticks that were completely in the way. that was all done before today (thanks, in both cases, to the efforts of our wwoofer who came through a couple weeks ago, Brandy). we also weren’t distracted by extraneous tasks like weeding, which had been on the agenda until Kay weeded the entire front acre of the property. which is *stunning* and was rather surprising, and which she doesn’t appear to feel was too much to do in exchange for staying here—since she keeps helping with stuff, and helped all day today, too! of course, we keep letting her stay here, which is what she’s trading work for, and are increasingly glad to help her out! we were also, because of pre-planning, able to come up with enough rocks to make the ends of the bridge. this happened two ways—Matt brought us a carload of really nice micaceous sandstone from Chama one time, and then after Mabon, the four of us stopped by the side of an especially rocky road, and “harvested” as many nice big square rocks as we could fit in our three cars. it was enough to do the job.

and i had way too much fun digging all day, and talking to people, getting caught up. at various points, i got into good conversations with Michelle, Mona, Lynn, Amy, & Bex, all of which were lots of fun. i wasn’t at the acequia most of the day, but in my perennials bed, digging. i might be sore in the morning, but i’m very happy. even more work, a lot of it conceptual at first and then working into manifestation, was going on at the acequia, as they got the coupler in, the ditch into the right shape, the culvert laid (that took 10 or so people, from the look of things) & leveled, and then the great Shifting of Dirt began. we’d been putting dirt back near there all day, to save later effort, and when that was shoveled into the ditch, efforts to remove all clay from both garden beds (pits) and get that back onto the bridge began in earnest. the moment one wheelbarrow was trundled away full of wet caliche (thanks to Michelle, who had the brilliant idea that we soak the stuff so we could actually get a shovel into it—we’re hanging out with some smart folks, so we are), an empty barrow would arrive to take its place.

eventually, people began to fade out and return to their regularly scheduled lives—step painting, sink repair, and brick laying were among the additional fun weekend activities i heard that others were up to as they departed—and those of us that were left were mostly in the shade, admiring the lovely new bridge. it’s all ready to drive a truck over now! as soon as we rake some sticks up on the other side. which is not much work compared to making a bridge! (did i say there were no trailing half-projects? foolish kat. there always are.)

after squaring off the final edges of the cold frame bed, and finishing out the outline of the perennials bed (including a diversion to the space between the sheds where i plan to put a Concord grape, YUM, and a diversion southwards for a divot to put a lilac in, YAY), and then selecting the location of future dye-plant beds out back framing the ritual grounds (yay, useful flower borders), and then finishing up the evening chores real quick, we adjourned to a victory-dinner-house-meeting with the four of us & Bex at Abuelita’s, where not only do they know our names, they know who eats cheese and who doesn’t want chile. if we have to only have one restaurant within five miles, at least they’re excellent.

i came home still vibrating with energy, and talked into getting the big ladder out so we could get up on the roof and sweep the sticks off of it, which has been needing to happen for a few weeks. we monkeyed up there—as i said to Tristan, the minister’s cat is a monkey—and cleaned them off, which took all of fifteen minutes. we act like the roof is far away, but it’s really not. :) next time i’m up there, i’m bringing a camera. there’s a heck of a view. when we get rid of that silly swamp cooler, we could keep the platform it’s on and put some boards on it to make a seat, for a viewing platform up there among the trees, above our pretty little corner world.

i’ll add photos tomorrow!