Sunday, May 24, 2009

Second work party / campout

Ok, it's Memorial Day weekend and I have big plans. Todd has a 4 day weekend and I have a 3 day weekend. The plan is for me to take off work early around 2pm and go home to load up the tools and camping gear in the truck. Eric will come over straight from work, clean up a bit and then we'll leave for Circle H.
Well...we got out there around 6pm. We stopped and bought footlongs, My favorite...Spicy Italian on Honey Oat. Yum...with lots of Jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese and Chipotle southwest dressing.
When we got out there, Todd had already setup his tent, built a Gazebo and erected a Privy. He got out to Circle H around 1pm and got busy.
So, we decided to eat first and then get to work. I had an idea to drive stakes into the ground at the center of the driveway and run a stringline at 6". Then, we could shovel the roadbase to the string level. I also put stakes on each end at 5" so there would be gentle crown in the middle. We managed to get a couple of hours of shoveling in before we started losing daylight. We called it quits around 8:45pm on Friday night, May 22nd. It's hard work but there is something different about working on your own property. I've shoveled gravel before at an hourly rate and I can't recall that I actually enjoyed it. Working with my sons was actually very relaxing. By the time we called it a night, all of the mental garbage, that accumulates from a typical days work, seemed to have melted away and I had a strange sense of satisfaction. It was really a good feeling. Imagine, working hard and feeling good about it. Hmmmm. I think that is how it was meant to be. By the way, Eric and I took note that Todd had a real nice airmattress, the last time we went camping out here. Eric came prepared with a nice cot and I brought an airmattress myself. Or, should I call it an airbed? I slept really well that night. We watched a DVD called "Passengers" and then went to bed around midnight. I woke up to the sound of a bird that sounded just like my alarm clock and grinned to myself at the irony. It was 6am. Geeez, you can't sleep in in the country. Funny thing is, I was rested and ready to go. So, I got up, grabbed a shovel and rake and got to work until Todd and Eric were up. Then we had breakfast and got back to work. All in all, I'd say we got a lot accomplished. We lashed some poles together to fashion a crude gate, loaded up and headed back to town. Once we had done all the work we were going to do for the day. We took a stroll through back acreage. Here is a picture of the cattle ranch behind Circle H and a cactus blossum. I can't help it. I think that the cactus is pretty. It's no fun to brush up against but it's still nice to look at. All in all, a really good day spent with my two sons.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time to bring in road base for a gravel driveway

Here is what the road looked like after the ruts dried.
As soon as we managed to get out of the mud; after our first attempt at a family gathering at Circle H, I vowed to start bringing in gravel for a road.
After calling around the area, a local company called Armadillo Dirt was recommended to me by another gravel company. I spoke with the owner and made arrangements to have a double load delivered.
This morning on my way to work, I got a phone call from the driver telling me that he was headed to pick up the gravel and he wanted directions to the site. I gave him directions and then thought it would be best that I have Ann meet him out there at the road. (Considering that it doesn't have an address, yet.)
After I asked Ann to meet him out there, I had the persistent feeling that I should be out there. So, I followed my gut, told my boss that I'd be gone for a couple of hours and took off to the country, about 65 miles away on the toll road. $5.25 later I was on a 'free' road headed out.
Somehow, I managed to catch up to them before they got out to the ranch and I dealt with the driver personally. Everything went fine. He was a nice guy. Why I had the prompting to be there in person, I don't know. But, I do know that the entire time I was on the road out there. I had a very strong sense of urgency that I had to get there before the driver did.
All said and done, I've always done very well when I followed my instincts. I can't help but wonder though, how many close calls have I avoided by following my feelings?
Ann took some pictures of the delivery. For a couple of people who have spent the last few decades of our lives as city folk, this was a pretty neat experience. I did work heavy construction for many years before I became a geek so being around a big dump truck was actually nothing new to me.
So? What's next on the agenda? Me, Todd and Eric are going to go out tomorrow after work and start spreading it by hand. That's right! 30 tons of road base. Hmmmmm. Should be lots of fun...the three of us men...bonding. :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our first family picnic at the Ranch

After two months of going out and working on the ranch, cutting down dead trees and scrubs, digging up cactus; which by the way has its own elegant beauty, we were ready to have everyone come out camping.

We found a perfect weekend, the one just before my 51st birthday. Everyone but Torie & Travis would be there. We cleared a space big enough to bring in the RV, I even mowed a big stripe so we could have a picnic area and place to setup tents for camping, too.

Eric even got to try out his new axe.

Everything was planned. All loose ends, tied. I even got out the electric generator and made sure that it could run the A/C in the RV. We were going to be 'boondocking' for our first trip with the RV.

What's that they say about mice and men? Well 'murphy' was hard at work. We started watching the weather forecast and it wasn't looking good. Storms were headed this way. Camping was definitely out. After shaking the disappointment of our RV maiden voyage, we called everyone to say that the picnic was still on. We would just go out and have fun. The rain wasn't moving in until late Saturday afternoon so we could have fun and get out before the rain hit.

Oooops, I guess we didn't make it. Just as we were starting to eat, the thunder storm rolled in with fury and soaked us good. We must have sat under a tarp at the picnic table for 45 minutes. When the rain slowed a bit, we made mad dashes back and forth to our vehicles to get everything loaded up.

Todd was the first to leave. We were saying our goodbyes to Eric and his family when I heard the sound of an engine rev'ing and tires spinning in mud and gravel. I must have heard it for some time when I suddenly realized that it was Todd and he was stuck.
I ran to the driveway and to my astonishment, I saw that Todd had dug himself several nice deep trenches in the "perfect" driveway that Eric and I had worked so hard on. He couldn't get out forward but he could back out. I suggested that he come back to the grass and let me get out with the truck so I could hook up a tow strap and pull him out.
Yeah, that worked out well. I got stuck just as bad, if not worse.
We tried everything we could think of. We put branches and logs under the tires. That didn't work. We managed to get the truck close to the road but really got stuck so I backed it up and got stuck again. We went on a hike through the propery and found some old pieces of tin to use to get traction. That helped out a lot. Thanks to Ann's quick thinking and answered prayers, we got the truck close enough to the road to get a neighbor to hook up a tow strap and pull me out into the road.

This is Molly, barely containing herself as she laughed at all the fun we were having. Don't believe me?

Ann was thoroughly enjoying herself. See?

I can't believe how well we worked through that. Ann found a neighbor with a big truck who sat at the edge of the road until we could get the truck close enough for him to hook on. After that I used my truck to pull Todd and Eric's cars out. We all got out safe and sound with no injuries. All in all, it was a fun adventure.

Clearing a driveway is a lot of hard work

A week after we closed on the property, Me, Eric and Todd all went to work. We had to clear a driveway just to gain access to the place. We worked hard, fast and furious. I can't tell you how many times I tripped over the stumps that Todd left sticking out of the ground. I had suggested that we leave a foot or so to tie on to when we pull them up. Todd decided to cut them at a sharp angle like spikes sticking out of the ground. After a few near failed suicide attempts while tripping over them and falling hard to the ground, we decided to cut them off at ground level.
Here's a picture of the clearing after we were done. Remember the picture of the "For Sale" sign? This is the same spot after we cleared the trees and briars.
In the process of working on the clearing one day, the Grand-sons all wanted chairs to sit on. Well...I did have a chainsaw in my hand...
A cedar stump makes an interesting chair.
Here's a riddle for you. How do you stump three smart little boys?
Answer: Give them all one to sit on.

The Search for land ends

This is the start of our Blog site. I wanted to catch up a bit on the beginning of our adventure as land owners. This is the beginning of our story.
02-08-2009: Well, we looked at lots of places, far and wide, and finally found one that was priced right. It wasn't as large as we wanted but it will do. Water and electricity are close. We'll have to clear it just to gain access. It's pretty wild. It's way off the beaten path so we can have the illusion of isolation that we're looking for.
The land is actually part of a larger ranch that was cut up into smaller tracts. This one has gone wild for some time now. Judging by the trees, I'd say about 15 years.
Now the fun starts. We're off to make and offer.
All of our neighbors are cattle ranchers. We've only met a couple of them