Woo. Truck Weekend for the win.

i think i derive an enormous amount of energy from a sense of satisfaction– which comes, for me, from work well done.

Friday started with a sit-sing at Fox’s house up in El Dorado–far for a friday night, but i left work early to carpool up with Io, Rev, Matthew & Wendy, which made for a fun trip. the sit-sing itself was perfect; everything i needed to lay to rest my grieving for my grandfather, to settle my own feelings. i sang my grief, sang my heart’s peace and my heart’s worries as a prayer for my grandfather, and for everything i carry in me about that family, for my round. then cried for a whole round, lifting voice in wordless notes, while Rev played didge, wild and raw and open, and everyone toned. there were rounds about love and harmony, and silly rounds, and rounds to heal political conflicts, and rounds for griefs that others needed to express. it is so good to be in a completely safe & sacred space like that. it’s been a long time. Fox and Io led a very fine circle. i hope it happens again soon.

What with the circle being in Santa Fe, and the carpool needing to drop off three others who live far north of me, i was the last one home, at 2 a.m. Which i followed up on by getting up three minutes later at 7:30 to spend the day grinding stumps.

I’d never met a stump grinder in person before this weekend. The one we rented from Home Depot was about the size of a big lawn-mower, and about twelve times as heavy and awkward to manipulate. it has a huge cutting blade on the front, with very deep teeth, which spins vertically. you pass the machine back and forth in an arc across your stump, and with each pass, more of the stump is completely pulverized into a fine powder, like little grains of elm sand. it also pulverizes hard clay soil, as you dig with it deeper and deeper, getting 6-8 inches of the main root of every stump and pulverizing all of the soil in the general neighborhood as well. in doing so, it kicks up a big pile of soft, mushy soil behind it’s own wheels, which makes it impossible to negotiate with about halfway through each stump. you also can’t see the stump you’re working on, what with the large body of the machine being in the way. it also makes a gawdawful amout of noise, so everybody’s got to wear ear plugs to be near it. it thus takes a minimum of two people to operate–one to wield the machine, and one to stand about 6 feet away (away from the flying spume of dust and wood chips) and watch the stump, and use gestures to tell you when to move left, right, forward, back, down, and so on, for greatest efficiency. that person, in our case, also had a rake, so as to clear the soft dirt from behind the wheels periodically—well away from the blade. :) we did it in shifts all day long, but mostly Alan and Kit drove the grinder, and i raked. i did a lot of raking—we were out there from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m.—and i got i think four stumps, most of them at the end of the day. Alan and Kit conquered, near as i could tell, about a hundred stumps. i don’t think that’s much of an exaggeration: the ritual ground is clear. it’s done. there are no more stumps down there. we even severed the primary root from branch roots on very nearly all of them, which should help–i said help, not solve–the zombie-elm problem, where no matter how dead you kill an elm, they still come back up from the roots. (we’re hoping the doelings we get later this spring will help with that problem, actually–when the elms start coming up, we can leash the goats and walk them through the area, letting them browse on elms at will. a season or six of that, and those elms really *will* be dead.)

the ritual ground is now entirely coated in a fine soft powdery earth, made of about half pulverized clay and half powdered elm stump. it was *incredibly* satisfying to watch that machine just eat through a whole stump in a matter of minutes. even the huge ones, that took a lot of time, didn’t take more than a half-hour a piece.

Stump Grinding, at the tired, punch-drunk, determined end of the day:

all that, AND, in the middle of the day, i took the truck up to Big-O tires to replace the tire that stripped itself on the highway Friday, while Kit & Alan were getting the grinder. I picked up lunch while i was up there, and then stopped for a truckload of strawbales –i had the truck, and i was right there, after all– and thereby completed an errand that had not even gotten on the calendar yet, but needed to be done before our upcoming drum jam. we’re going to make a half-wall of strawbales (two bales high) around the southern half of the drum circle, to help contain our noise so we don’t bother the neighbors. that jam is two weeks off, but it always feels good to get things done early. it may make enough space to get the rest of the prep done: namely, to build the outdoor privy.

at any rate, by the end of the day, we had not only done everything, we had done extra. we were sore and tired and completely useless, but in one day three of us and a motorized blade had done what easily would have been a hundred or more hours of labor with hand tools. plus a bonus load of straw!

see? Before:


so today, not having had enough of wearing ourselves into stiff insensibility, we got up at 6:30 (on a Sunday), drove down to Bosque Farms to pick up Robin, then drove down to the ranch she boards her horse at, and shovelled well-composted horse manure for a little over two solid hours. we stomped on the load to make more fit in, and then kept somebody up on top, stomping and distruting it, while three others filled big buckets and hoisted them up. the ranch has been dumping their manure in an apparently-vast pile on the edge of the acequia for approximately forever. so after the top six inches or so of pretty fresh stuff, we hit gold: steaming black well-composted manure, probably six feet deep. obviously, we couldn’t take that much in this load, but we took all we could. the truck holds about 2.5 cubic yards. i aim to frame some plywood up around the sides of the trailer and take that next time, maybe next month, to probably triple our carrying-capacity. yes, we should–and will–talk to our neighbors about getting their manure, but this stuff is really well aged, and worth the drive down there to get it. it’s black and steaming. it wants to make healthy vegetables, you can just tell. Rose (the ranch owner) said next time, if we can come on a Monday through Thursday, she’ll load the truck with her front-loader. that’s worth making room in my schedule for! two more truckloads and we’ll have the whole garden 3″ deep in it. as it is, we got the two most hard-up beds fully manured today (the brand new one, closest to the cottonwoods, and the one furthest from the house, where absolutely nothing grew well last year) and the corn/beans/squash bed, too, unloading into a wheelbarrow and then trundling the barrow off to the bed. the manure is in barrow-sized piles, but it can be raked out now with minimal effort. Kit is planning to do that tomorrow, i think. we all smelled so profoundly of manure that i thought the restaurant where we stopped for brunch would refuse to seat us. but being in Bosque Farms, they’re probably used to it. even during the sunday after-church rush. they’ve probably seen worse. we did wash.

Alan about wore out during all the unloading, and i was moving pretty slow by the end of it, but by the time we’d rested a bit, we were ready to charge up into town and relieve Scott & Sharra & Marianne of about a (literal) ton of extra red landscaping rock that they ended up with while rocking the front yard. it didn’t fill the truck–about half, i think–but it is going to go a long way towards helping with Lake Driveway. and next time we know someone who gets talked into buying too much from a landscape rock company (this seems to keep happening, so it must be how landscape rock companies make their living–convincing people that they need more rock than they actually need), this red rock should form a good base beneath the new rock. the driveway mud is probably something we’ll be working on intermittently for years, but every bit helps.

that rock is still in the truck, though, because we decided to stop at petsmart and get aquarium plants for Alan’s new fish tank (given to us by a friend who needed to find a new home for them), and then stop at Ta Lin for veggies & to stock up the Chinese herbal medicine cabinet, which was running low. the bok choy was a Good Idea (not to mention the sweet black rice cake we ate in the car), and the aquarium looks great with it’s new sunken ruins and four kinds of plants!

and because completion and satisfaction are energizing, after we got a shower at Caer Aisling (sine we STILL don’t have water, thanks to Affordable Solar), we came home to eat and Kit & Alan washed all the dishes and now they’re making cookies. Nom!

Year of the Earth Ox, here we come! i feel intensely energized & empowered by all this accomplishment. i might be crazy sore in the morning, but this is energy i can handle a lot more of!