Thursday, December 29, 2011

Picture-less postcard

Dear Readers,
As the end quietly meanders toward its calendar ending, I find myself far from my wintry mountain home, in a flat land of mild temperatures, abundant sunshine and vast views of blue sky. The city of Austin (Texas) is as oasis of (relative) moisture and liberalism in a wider zone of arid republican terrain, with the Colorado River flowing through town and the abundance of music, arts and hip-ness creating enough of a political current to vote Donkey in an impossibly conservative state. Driving out into the country the other day, my friend Meg, the reason I am here, described the countryside as "inhospitable," with its dry heat and scrubby brush. I imagine that for most of the year it is so- the temperatures exceeded 100 degrees for a record 100 plus days this year, and wildfires uncomfortably close to the city threatened the collective psyche the general population here with the ancient elemental fears of this desert region.

But mid-Winter in Austin greets me with moist earth, pleasant and mild days, and chilly but manageable nights. Coupled with the good home cooking and familiar laughter of a life long best friend, I find this place more than hospitable. Days filled with trips to the park and Botanical Gardens, fun family yard work, Zumba at the Y, shooting at the Austin Rifle Club, and strolling around the weirdest and nastiest zoo in Texas are the perfect way to spend the last week of the year and what will be likely be my biggest solo vacation before the end of the Mayan calendar. The deep satisfaction of a lifelong friendship is nurturing and awesome beyond words, and I can relax here- away from home- and take comfort in the hospitality of this dear soul. God bless Texas and this gal who lives here.

I have some good pictures I will try to post soon.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

House update in photos

I didn't move in before Christmas...(Still residing in the Airstream):

The house is steadily advancing toward its final inspection:House underpinned with a "skirt" of tile backer board (to be stuccoed by me early January I hope):

Kitchen cabinets with awesome 6 ft long sink:

Laura and Eddie's Vermont castings "Vigilant" stove connected with stovepipe to the out-of-doors:

Upstairs bathroom nook:


Stovepipe creatively exiting through the wall and edge of roof:

Stairwell of ash and walnut from the land, milled on site by none other than Carl Rice:

I end the year with gratitute for all the support I have from loving family, friends and neighbors to carry this creation of a home through.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let us not forget our mortality

A recent brief but memorable conversation with my neighbor the other day left me pondering the winter season and our modern cultural relationships with the seasons of the year. This friend, RM, and I were discussing the winter holidays and noting the highly intensified stress levels we modern westerners seem to experience this time of year. Family dynamics often explode with lifetimes of festering subsurface funk, dormant human-feeding viruses wake up and feast upon the tired and cold among us, we break our banks buying stupid crap to give each other, and the widespread cultural expectation to be cheerful peers around from every corner, mercilessly laughing in our faces.
I expressed that it is absurd for our major holiday season to be held in the darkest, most difficult time of the year. RM explained that the original reason for these winter holidays was for that precise reason. She said that the dark season awakens very old fears in us, and that the holidays were intended to band people together to provide extra support for each other during the coldest, roughest time of the year.
Very old fears. A chill runs down my back, and the fears, buried shallowly beneath my modern illusions of invincibility stir and grumble. Fears of cold, of sickness, of starvation, of perish, of the icy fingers of death itself. These are indeed age-old fears; they are the same fears that drove each generation of ancestors to survive year after year, through whatever trials each season unveiled. They are old fears, but they are not irrelevant fears.
The lines between health and sickness, thriving and perishing, life and death are thinner than I like to be aware of. We are organisms among many on this earth, and despite our desperate desire to believe there is someone out there (who favors our type of organism) controlling it all, the bottom line is we are just as subject to the laws of nature as our cavemen ancestors, as the birds and the four-leggeds, and as the viruses that we try to kill with antibiotics. We are eating and being eaten, and we will ultimately perish at the benefit of someone or something else.
Let us not forget our mortality.
RM and I wondered whether we modern westerners have the skills to make the holidays what they were intended to be- to improve our collective strength by banding together in the toughest time of the year. I think we do. And if we don't, we ought to make it our business to remember what is surely as basic and ancient in our human psyches as the fear of winter. Let us remember how to find collective strength in the darkness.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The heartbeat of one dingle

The wind is raging in its Novemeber strangeness, seeming to purge the land of this year's bright season. There is a suspiscious balminess erratically blowing through the mountains, tipping trees and conjuring angry and longing sounding squeaks and cries through the night and all the morning. Bitter Cold is sneering greedily around the corner, its shit-eating grin laced with all manners of human-hungry cold viruses and pneumonias, all the tiny little ones gearing up to feast and procreate during the dramatic front changes of late November, awaiting another winter of rapid adaptation and evolution. In the meantime, in one typically quiet mountain dingle*, one modern woman celebrates the arrival of water to the ridge above her house. Having planned and dreamed for the past 2 cycles of the sun, and having worked with a diverse team of modern mountain men during the entire course of the November moon, Dana Nagle rejoices to the bosom of the mother earth Herself and her trusty consort, Gravity, that the ram pump has settle into the magical configuration of adjustments which allows it to defy common sense and pump water up the mountain on its own, night and day, with no additional sources of power. The constant movement of the pump, which cycles with a hearty thump each second, will keep the water in liquid form as the nightime temperatures descend into the subfreeze realm this week. The sound of the pump ramming each second has become a comfort to Ms Nagle, who listens for it each time she steps out under the sun or moon. The thumping below, like the heartbeat of the mountain.

*dingle: a small wooded valley

Tank on the ridge, filling with water

Let's walk back down to the house:

Some numbers:
Water flow cycling through pump: 5 gallons/minute; 120 gallons/hour
Water arriving at tank on ridge: 1/6 gallon/minute; 10.3 gallons/hour; 248 gallons/
Efficiency rate of pump: 8%

All "waste" water from pump flows back into the branch, thus keeping the ecosystem wet and intact. The water is still clean.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumped 3

Extra Extra Read all About it: Ram pump update...
The good news: The ram pump is installed and hooked up to lots of pipe.
The bad news: The pump is running- pumping like a heartbeat, but so far it is not pumping the water up to the tank.

Some details:
Gallons per minute of spring flow: currently about 4
Vertical drop from spring to pump: about 18-20 feet
Size pipe from spring to pump: 1 1/2 inch
Vertical rise from pump to tank: about 130 feet (over a distance of 700 feet)
Size pipe from pump to tank: 3/4 inch
Tank size: 600 gallons
Vertical fall from tank to house: about 80 feet

The pump should pump water up to 10 times higher than the fall from the source to the pump. My system falls within that range, but the pump has been running for 2 days straight with no water reaching the tank up on the ridge. My neighbor and friend, James Wilsom, came over this evening and maybe, just maybe figured out why. The pump has a standard pressure tank attached to it. The tank comes preset at 40 psi, but can be adjusted. For the pump to maximize its pumping capacity, the pressure tank should be set at slightly under the psi of the water between the tank on the ridge and the pump. Basically that is the pressure put back on the pump caused by the gravity of the water in the buried pipes. This number can be reached by taking the vertical rise from the pump to the tank and multiplying it times .43. 130 x .43 equals something around 56. So the pressure in the pressure tank should be adjusted (by adding air) to 56. I think it is currently set at 10 psi because we read the instructions wrong. Hopefully with this adjustment, the pump can get the water all the way up to the 600 gallon tank on the ridge. I will keep you posted. Go James, go. Thanks for the think "tank."

The pump is bolted to this stool:

This is a small tank at the spring that is piped down the hill to the ram pump:

This is the ram pump with the pressure tank on top:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fire and water

Early November finds me actualizing some of the major infrastructural plans of my little homestead. Water lines (all 2000 feet of them) are buried, power line is connected to the house, the house is plumbed to the septic tank, and the GORGEOUS wood stove is now in the house. (***There will be another whole post later about the stove itself and all it represents in the world of friendship and warmth.) The stove is not set up yet, but it is getting good and ready for that. My hydraulic ram pump has arrived in the mail, and it will be set up and connected to tie the whole water system together on Monday. A ram pump is a non-electric water pump that uses the force of water falling through a pipe to power itself to pump the water uphill to a point far above the original source. The plan is to pump the water up the hill (underground) to a 600 gallon storage tank which is buried on the ridge above the house- 600 feet from the house at about an 80 ft elevation rise. The water will be gravity fed to the house from that tank and will have good water pressure. The overflow water will go over the other side of the hill to share with some of the lovely neighbors, whose spring is fussy in dry weather. Assuming everything works as planned, very soon I will have a functional water system in place that meets my 3 goals: to get water to my house, to share water with the neighbors, and to keep the branch wet. (Most of the water that flows into the ram pump is used to pump a much smaller volume of water up the hill- and then splashes back out into the branch.) When the pump is up and running, I will dedicate a post to its glory. Same with the woodstove. Fire and water. For now, enjoy the pictures of a crazy ditch digging operation that occured last week... Sorry for the sideways ones.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ode to Laura and Eddie

I love it when Laura and Eduard come out for a sleepover. There is always a bonfire, and cooking on it, and settling in to good and meaningful conversation until way past dark, and whiskey drinking and laughing. There is also a lot of teasing and farting around, but it is balanced with idea sharing and contemplating life in these modern times. Visiting with these two always warms my heart and makes me wonder how I got to be so lucky to have such good friends and family around me. Susie and Todd and Jenna also came for the Sunday portion of the 24 hour bonfire, and Mom graced us with a quick visit. Susie and Laura strung garlands of Susie's fresh marigolds by the fire in the mid day sun on a most lovely Appalachian autumn day. It reminded me that Day of the Dead is just around the corner, so I pulled out a couple little skeletons and made them marigold skirts for some seasonal inspiration.
I thought Susie and Laura were the definition of lovely as they flower crafted by the fire...

I hope these cats come back real soon! Love you both!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

By request

Sometimes I look around at my surroundings and I feel like James Taylor in the 70s. Don't ask me why, but it happens kind of a lot, especially in the fall. I imagine myself as Jameshimself, relaxing by a small campfire in blue jeans and a flannel- the cool crisp air breezing through the clear Carolina blue sky. Gone to Carolina in my mind...Check out my camper scene:

Here is the view from the top of Lonesome mountain on the way home:

And here's what some of you all have requested- more picutres of the house:
This is the tile I have on the bathroom/laundry nook floor upstairs, a sample of the wood flooring to be used soon, and the shower stall downstairs.

I am writing minimally these days, but do not worry- I am not totally atrophying my writing muscle. I am doing a little Airstream diary for a certain friend. I might write a story on here soon. Thanks for looking.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

House Details plus some killer bonus material

Current house details:
Upstairs ceiling: white pine from the land with linseed oil
Upstairs trim: black walnut from the land with hippie polyurethane
Downstairs trim: ash and black walnut from the land with hippie-poly
Paint colors: "Earthen jug," "Steamed milk," "Delicious melon," " Tea light..."
In progress: clay colored tile in bathroom floor
Coming soon: hardwood floor of some sort

Special Bonus pictures: A Jenna and Susie impromtu dance at Pop-a-top rock...