Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Silver Linings

Each morning I wake up not really knowing what the day will bring. There is a loose general plan based on the cooperation of the universe. I must admit I dwell peacefully in a house of retirement and have adopted that pace like a long lost friend. That is probably a sanity saving adaptation since the universe cooperates as it sees fit.

When the fog lifts what will the rest of the day bring? Will it be dry enough, with no rain, to try and get some construction done today?

Time flies at such a slow pace. I can wander into the garden and into forest and get lost in time. Just looking.

There may be one sunny moment where a little piece of my cabin falls into place.

And a lot of waiting for the web of approvals. And waiting for the parts of construction that need to come next in line, to dry.

I marvel at the fog on a mountaintop as the light of a new day pours through. I ponder the fog that is this computer. IE got a brain freeze for a day and would not let me access the internet. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a system restore. Or storm systems finally pass through.

The footings for my cozy little cabin got dug. Our main man's dump truck slid off the wet mountain at his other job with the big contractor and his assistant was able to come up here during a hole in the rain. My saprolite soils were dry enough to work in.

Now I just need to get into the bottom of these holes and dig another 16" wide and 8" deep trench for the steel re-bar that goes into the footings. But first we have to put up the batter boards to make sure I dig a straight line.

The sun has come out and my sister and two nephews have arrived from Florida for their summer cooling trip to the mountains of North Carolina. Today we went white water rafting. Tomorrow we go hiking.

Maybe we can get this space for a pad for the gas tank formed and ready to go this week between rain and vacations. It should be easier and quicker.

The universe flows sticky on a regular basis. I am content for the most part to observe and enjoy.

By Halloween and by Christmas.

More pieces are sure to have fallen in place.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Is There Anybody in Kansas Any More?

It has rained pretty much all day so it is a fine time to go backwards in time. Back to the small prairie town of Colby Kansas.

Why Colby? What would make me get off the interstate and purposefully drive through this particular town to have a look around. My dear friend Ana B, formerly of Maui, has landed in this small Kansas town to stay. I had to see what it was like. I had to be able to say I have been to Colby before I began to say I was from Clyde.

Driving through western Kansas there are fields as far as the eye can see. Very gentle undulating hills with nary a tree to be seen go on for mile after mile. An occasional house may appear all alone in an endless landscape and every so often tiny little towns can be seen. They stand out as an oasis because of the green trees that huddle closely with the buildings in tight clumps, reminiscent of herding herbivores gathered in circles for protection from the elements and predators. I wandered in to the circle to look at the life forms inside.

What I saw were iconic American images. The churches to go with the fundamentalist billboards that were seen from the highway. The big silos and processing facilities for the grains that feed the world.

Corn on the right side of the road and water raised high in the sky to make use of gravity.

Wheat on the left side of the road, those amber waves of grain.

I have seen Colby Kansas, if only in a drive-by viewing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gate Ways

We'll open with something pretty that doesn't need any help.

And say a little prayer to the gods of good design.

Patterns or forms tend to get repeated in a lot of variations.

A simple bold stroke on the same old thing can make a big difference in how something looks or feels.

The gateway to power has been placed in position. Silly us, we thought we should get it inspected before we called the power company. Now we have an appointment for the site to be "Staked" for electricity on August the 8th.

The deep blue Delphinium I bought at the Biltmore. I really should save the plant tags or write down the species and cultivar names since my short term memory seems to be shot.

Which came first, seeing this plant again or the notions for my front entry gate? I know the dangling chains were already there. Then the balls were added. Then some leaves, but I am waffling strongly in the negative direction about the leaves.

These are the initial thoughts on the design of my front gate. Feel free to lob any ideas or opinions you may have about it my way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Into The Mist

After a bout of constipation
I got my permit to poo.
Then surprisingly quickly got a permit to build.
I dug a four foot deep hole
For the newly crafted temporary power pole.

The machines finally came back
To move the earth.
Once more.
But then it started to pour.

The fog rolls in
and out.

I am trying to build a house in the clouds.
I keep trying to feel a firm connection to this process,
To see some real progress.

The four foot deep hole for my temporary pole
Got filled
But not with the power pole.

A stack of lumber came home today
In the driving rain
To form forms for foundations
Forms for cement pads for gas tanks
And step landings.

It sits in my truck. Wet.

The satellite internet
Can fade away in a storm
Disappear altogether
Get lost in the clouds.

I started reading the manuals
About the weeds and the bugs
For a North Carolina Pesticide Applicators License
And faded away too.

The fog and the mist turned an eerie glowing orange.
The rain slowed, considered stopping.
The sunset was perhaps
The most sun that had been seen all day.

I have lumber.
I have my power pole, my plans and my permit.
It has been pleasantly cool.

May we please dig the footings
For my cozy little cabin soon?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Building in a Rain Forest

Was it just me or was the entire internet having a brain freeze all day?

I walked by this six foot tall clump of grass for three weeks thinking this is a big giant weed that got in the meadow some how and needs to be yanked. It's like a giant reed or cane grass. What is it doing here in North Carolina. Then I spotted its spots as the fresh growth pushed ever higher.

Holy crap this is Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus', somebody planted this on purpose. I think it missed its spring or fall haircut. It sure has a jungley effect as I walk under it.

It has rained every single day I have been up here except one I think. Often just a passing shower, but always accompanied by thunder and twice by hail. If our saprolite soils and steep slopes didn't drain very well this place would be a swamp. As it is, the layer of humus created from leaf litter and tree fall never dries out. It is a sponge. The tree themselves hold substantial amounts of water in their canopies for quite some time after it rains. It is easier to get wet under the trees when the rain stops than when it first starts.

I walk by the remnants of Betsy's former house every day too. The fireplace and foundation walls are all that remain. I want to know the story behind the person who used to live up here. I want to know if something other than death caused her to leave.

It was a very small and simple house, built with the stones from the land and wood from the forest that has long since decomposed. I doubt that this simple house was connected to any thing we take for granted, like water and electric or sewers.

Now I am here with bigger machines, moving the earth, to build a slightly bigger but much more complicated cabin and eventually a small house. After waiting for two weeks it seems, a machine arrived to move the earth again. Well of course it rained and the clay that fills my saprolite gets sticky quick. The machine that was here to redistribute the earth that was piled up for a pad for the cabin came to a stop.

We didn't like this cabin pad. It created a severe steep slope that was unpleasant to look at and would have been a bitch to plant, stabilize and maintain. There was also the fear that an inspector might suggest that a retaining wall would be needed to hold this slope in place. A retaining wall could cost more than the cabin.

So we have waited for the machines to return to spread this pile of soil across the entire length of the ridge line and get it back to as close as we can to the existing natural grade. The cabin was always intended to be built on a post and pier foundation. Level ground was not required. I will now just have a little more head room under the cabin for storage or possibly an illegal rental unit.

This petite little scooping machine was all that was available. Our main man and his machines got some good steady work with a big contractor, so he sent his assistant with this cute little blue thing. It moves dirt.

Here we are getting back in line with the natural grade.

I walk through the meadow several times a day going from the resident gardeners house to my house site. In the last three days the Spicebush Swallowtails must have had a major hatching. What was a couple has turned into dozens that float above the meadow.

The sun came out briefly and they started to land along the top of my drive and in the gravel along the edge of the road, sipping something. Salts I suppose. That is the only time they have been still enough for me to get a picture of them.

The False Solomon's Seal, Smilacina racemosa, grows in dense patches in the shady understory of the forest. It has foliage that makes it stand out from the mishmash of so many plants that take a common form in leaf and habit. There are too many heart shaped leaves on small ground hugging plants for me to be able to distinguish them all separately yet. There are so many clumping perennials with several three to four foot tall stems with linear leaves that the flower are my best bet at this point for learning who they are.

There are parts of this rain forest where next to nothing grows beneath the trees. The Hemlocks are not always generous with the space at their feet. The ridge line below my future house's pad drops a good 60 feet down to the stream over an 80 foot run. It is steep. It is north facing and it is covered in dying Hemlocks. I will garden here. So I have been cutting foot paths into this slope to make it easier to walk on. I want to know who is here and who may be able to live here in the future.

The trouble is the trees are dying. When they are dead more of them will start to fall. Then they will squash the things I may have planted. How does one plan for or plant in a dying section of forest? How does one plan to replace the trees? Now it might not be such a problem if they were not 80 to 100 feet tall, but they are. It might not be such a problem if I were rich, but I'm not. Maybe just short things with good sturdy root crowns to start.

The Hemlocks may prove to be the devil in their dying.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Let's All Go to the Biltmore

Far down in one of the valleys below is a world we can never live in, one we can only visit.

Cheerful potted arrangements welcome you where they take your money, miles from the final destination.

An American Castle begun in 1889 and completed in 1895 with shipping and railroad money.

An illegal interior shot of one of the hundreds of classical friezes that covered the upper walls and formed much of the trim detail.

Busted. No photographs allowed. The Banquet Room with triple fireplace, 40 foot long oak dining table and Pipe Organ.

Things on the roof.

Front exterior courtyard. Behind the windows is the Winter Garden, a glass roofed room. It's ceiling detail was in a previous post.

Exterior detail. The banister was actually a narrow walkway and stair to clean the windows.

Welcome to the Gardens.

Side view of the American Castle from the South Terrace.

Gentleman in the arbor.

A really big tree in the Shrub Garden, possibly a Beech Tree. It looked to have some damage from the Easter freeze.

A nice Weeping Cedar

Looking out on the extensive beds in the walled Garden.

Eucomis comosa, the Pineapple Lily.

Temperate Hibiscus.

Grass, Alocasias and either Coleus or Perilla.

An unknown to me, so if anyone recognizes it speak up. I like its stature at six feet at least, structure and big leaves.

The Conservatory.

Ho hum, been there, done that. Wrong! This was done to the max, an over the top extravaganza of very healthy big tropical plants. Well Done!

Pink Flamingos feeding in the garden.

What's that you hear?

Time to head back to the real world.