Sunday, January 30, 2011

Watch me get dirty

Welcome Ms Jessie L to the House of Dana! This past year I have been so lucky to have received the most generous help and assistance from a plethora of family and friend-folk as I have started preparing this place to house myself and my quirky lil' life. Each person who comes to help brings different skills, personalities, styles of work and fun and leaves me with a new story to tell. I have such a blast having people over and working with them and I am very grateful for it all.

This past weekend my ole buddy Jessie asked me if I wanted to hang out. Well, I was planning a big day of productivity for myself out at the land, since it was the first sunny nice spell in soooo long, so I left Jessie a message saying if she felt like watching me get dirty, she should come on out. She in turn left me a giggly message saying that sounded good. I couldn't tell if she was serious or not, so I was delighted when she did indeed come on over Saturday afternoon. Even more delighted I was to learn that she not only wanted to witness me get dirty, but she wanted to help with a project. Well, hee haw. There was some serious measuring to be done.

For the past year I have wanted to measure the following: the specific drop in elevation from the spring to the potential spot that a ram pump will go, the specific rise in elevation from the potential site of the pump to the ridge above the house where a water storage tank will sit, and the specific drop in elevation from the storage tank to the house. I am talking about vertical elevation measurements, and I do not have a gps system, so I have often thought about what would be the simplest way to take these measurements. About a month or 2 ago I journeyed down to the old county tax office and got a topographic map of the property that contains contour lines every 10 feet, so I was able to infer approximate elevations of the various points, but I wanted more specific measurements to plug into a formula (along with gallons per minute of spring water flow) to figure the practicality and appropriate size of a (non-electric) ram pump.

As it turned out, it was a good thing I waited so long to go ahead and take these measurements because Jessie was the perfect person to complete this project with. You see, we have a habit of laughing a lot. About most things. And it turns out that measuring vertical elevation differences was no exception. Our method was simple: I measured and marked one foot increments on a 10 foot long straight pole. She held the pole at the starting elevation and I went uphill a ways to a point on the ground and shot a red laser light from a laser level loaned to me by this friend. I shot the laser onto the measuring pole and recorded the vertical rise in feet from her point to my point on a piece of paper. Then she would move up to my point and I would go uphill a ways, and we would repeat the process. We did this all the way up to ridge, Jessie with a beer in one hand and the pole in the other. Me every time struggling to see the red laser light among the bright glare of afternoon sun reflecting off of snow. We giggled our way up the mountain, and had a real hoot when Jessie made the analogy that helping me with this task was like shopping with her mother. You walk a few feet and then stand there for a while, then walk a few more feet then stand there for a while while the other person does something.

I was quite satisfied (and a bit dirty) by the time we finalized the measurements. (For nerds who are interested, it is a 20 foot drop from the spring to the pump site, a 95 foot rise from the pump site to the most likely cistern site, and then a 45 foot drop from the cistern to the house. There is potential to go a bit higher if need be for better water pressure in the house.) The temperature started cooling as the day came to a close, and Jessie decided to build a fire. Most wood was still wet from the snow, so it started off as an itty bitty fire, and it slowly grew to a bitchin warm campfire that lasted well into the night. Good ole SM walked up, and the three of us sat around that fire for hours, shooting the shit, drinking a little sippy, and eating some little snackies. We told stories and reminisced, and I laughed so hard my smile muscles that extend way up into my scalp were aching. The late night walk down and back up the half mile or so driveway (which is still solid ice) turned out to be the real icing on the funny cake, as SM slipped into a frozen puddle and busted it with her hip and the side of her person (just as Jessie was commenting that it wasn't really all that slick), while Jessie caught all manners of things that were about to fly out of her basket backback, and the laser light reflecting off the snow and ice somehow cracked our shit right up over and over. At one point, Jessie gave me a hand to step across a big slick patch of ice, and in the process some sunglasses that I had forgotten about slipped off the top of my head, and a lens popped out and slid down the mountain on the ice. Imagine three old buddies in the dark coming down a mountain on solid ice just laughing and laughing and laughing. That was us.
Welcome to the project Jessie!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting Our Bearings

Looking toward Hot Springs with Bluff Mountain in the way distance (left side of photo)

In the pines, in the pines

June with long human shadows

A future destination- that mountain above the double wide

I am delighted to have found a partner in foot exploration. Those who know me personally will probably be quick to agree that I am terrible with directions. When I got my license at age 16, the first place I wanted to drive by myself was to my best friend's house. I had been going there since first grade. I got in the car to leave, but then I had to go back into the house and ask my parents for directions on how to get there. They thought I was kidding. I was not kidding. Even now at my job working landscaping, it is not uncommon for me to need to ask directions to a client's house that I have been to many times. I am not dumb or really all that slow-witted. It is something about not being able to easily recall spacial relationships of different things- rooms in a house, roads, landmarks. I can remember them, but the way they are oriented in relation to each other gets all muddled up in my brain. Always has been that way. Living in these here mountains can get really confusing, even for the most directionally apt person. You walk around a ridge and down a holler, and you get all turned around as to which way is which. It really helps me understand where I am and where other things are if I can walk the terrain and go to various view points, especially in the winter, and see where everything is.

Being on foot and walking the land is the crucial factor here. I love travelling and exploring places on foot. Always have. Usually it has been a solo endeavor, but the times I have found a suitable foot travel companion, it is very fun and exciting- pretty much one of my top favorite ways to spend time with someone.
I am most happy to have discovered my dear friend and neighbor Moonie to be a most compatible walking companion. She shares the love of getting one's bearings by walking all around, and she has lots of places that she would love to walk to- just because. I am all about it. Today, being the clear, cold and sunny winter day that it was, was a perfect time to set out with a few provisions and see where we could go in an afternoon.
Our loosely discussed mission was to walk to the old childhood homeplace of Shorty, the queen of the hollerhood, who has passed on, but whose legacy is very much alive and kicking. I was wandering around a couple years ago and came upon the sweetest, most lovely, quiet, uninhabited meadowy farmstead, that I later found out was Shorty's childhood homeplace. I couldn't exactly remember how I got there, but we figured we'd try. We had a limited amount of time, because Moonie had dinner plans, and we didn't find it today, but the walk was most magnificent nontheless. Stunning views, dark cold piney hollers, old lonesome homeplaces tucked way back where the sun don't shine, brilliant sun glowing off of a fresh layer of snow, a late afternoon sun dog. And now we have an excuse to get together again real soon to try again. I am hoping that these walking adventures become a somewhat regular occurence.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Adventures in Technical Difficulties

I started my essay about technology choices the other day on a common word processing program that I had on the laptop. I wrote about 2 pages of an introduction, and then I decided to do a google search to find a transcription of a report I heard on NPR last year about techonology and human attention span. Somewhere in the process of doing the google search, the computer acquired a virus and ceased to function properly. Oh well.

Since the road was too icy for me to even back out of the driveway, and my little computer project was on hold (not that I can't write on paper or anything, but my draft was on the messed up computer), I walked down to the local library in an attempt to research a little something about the Industrial Revolution and the Luddite movement. Nothing. Oh well.

Well, the day was sunny and the snow was gorgeous with light cast upon it, so I loaded my little day pack and set off along the railroad tracks by the river and headed downstream. My mission was to conduct an old fashioned visit to my friend Ruth at her farm- in person and on foot. It was a lovely walk, and I took pictures to prove it. Ruth and I visited with hot chocolate for an hour or so, and then it was time for me to head back so I could make it back to town by dark.

The next day was sunny again, and I dared to fire up the ole gal (pickup truck) and venture out for some errands. I backed out of the driveway onto the road and promptly slid on what was probably the only remaining patch of road ice left in town. I slid off to the side so that I needed to call 2 large men to come push me onto the dry road. Oh well.

First stop was to take the computer to the repairman in Marshall. He wasn't in so I trustingly left the computer with the gal behind the bar who said she would pass it to him when he got in. Oh well.

I did some errands in Asheville for the afternoon, and the last stop was Beaverdam Ingles to pick up some stuff for my mom. I got out of the store at dusk and was stepping into my truck to leave, when the guy parked next to me informed me I had a flat tire. "You're not going to want to drive on that," he informed me before he drove away. Oh well. It was my first flat tire, and frankly, while I was familiar with the concept of how to remove the tire and jack the vehicle up and change it and all that, I had no first hand experience with the tools and the process. So after a while of trying to help myself and failing (while all manners of people who probably call themselves men passed me by and stared) I called for some back up. Michael T came and helped me, and then sweet neighbor friends from Shelton Laurel Leonard and Deanna showed up out of nowhere and jumped in. The tire was frozen/ rusted on and very difficult to get off, but with the dream team it was accomplished, and I was on my way.

The next day was warmish and I drove out to the holler in the afternoon for a visit to the land and home site. The driveway was still covered in snow, so I parked up the road at the base of the church driveway and walked in. It was a most lovely walk-fresh mild air and snow still all around, wonderful neighbor friends out and about, I could almost believe that winter would end someday. I walked up to the house site and enjoyed a drink of cool spring water, adjusted the metal over a couple of the stacks of lumber and headed down just before dusk. When I arrived at my truck to leave, I realized my keys had fallen out of my pocket somewhere along the way into the snow. I retraced my steps, searching every little possible pocket in the snow along my path until dark, and I didn't find my keys. My truck was conspicuously situated so that all the Sunday morning church goers would have to weasel around it to get up to church. I left a note on the window stating. CAR KEYS LOST IN SNOW. "I AM VERY SORRY!" followed by my name, phone number and location. Oh well.

Today I will continue searching for my spare key, walk and look again for my lost key in the snow, check on the status of the infected computer, and possiblly take the flat tire to get repaired. It's just an adventure in a few technical difficulties. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Call for Input

I am thinking of doing an essay/article about technology choices. This is something that I think about everyday, and I think would be a meaningful and challenging thing to write about. I started with the philosophical question to myself: Is it worth it to be selective about what technologies I choose to use in my life? My answer to this is yes. I think how I spend my time and mental energy will dictate how I am as a person, and that is important to me. Technologies, to the best of my understanding, are developed to assist us in getting things done. How I choose to get various things done will determine what skills I do and do not develop, how my brain will work, how much real contact I have with others and how much real contact I have with the world around me. How I choose to get things done will determine what skill sets I build and what I am prepared for.

I am thinking of structuring my essay/article with a philosophical introduction (a more eloquent and extended version of what I just said) and then break it down to a limited selection of hot, modern technologies and my thoughts on those- and why I choose or do not choose to use them in my daily life.

I would love any thoughts about this from you, dear readers. If you have any to share with me for my preparation of this supposed "essay/article, " feel free to contact me via the following technologies: Comment section on this blog, telephone, or person to person visit (spontaneous or arranged by telephone).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Upon further observation

Upon further observation, there are many, many robins foraging in the Hot Springs vicinity. This may not seem like a mentionable observation from my life in Western North Carolina, but let me tell you, people are talking about it. No one I have talked to remembers seeing this many in the winter before. Granted, I am snowed in, so I am not talking with hoards of people these days, but several have spoken of the phenomenon. The repetitive conversations and observations of the grand quantities of these fine feathered friends prompted me to do a little "googling" of the matter. Apparently, the vast majority of robins migrate south for the winter, but some roosts are inclined to stick it out where they are at and chance finding enough winter berries (their food of choice when the ground is too cold to hunt earthworms). These flocks remain in the vicinity of their breeding grounds, but do a bit of moving around in order to procure the ample fruit snacks they need in order to meet their heavy dietary needs. Apparently, more and more groups of robins are trying to overwinter in their breeding grounds due to the increasing amounts of invasive honeysuckle vines. The honeysuckle berries seem enticing, but apparently they aren't as nutritious as native berries (according to an article I read that I can't figure out how to post a link to here...)
To the best of my observations, the robins around here are focusing on the abundant hackberries we have in this area. There were flocks of them on the road above the French Broad this afternoon as I walked to my grandmother's to cut her hair (and get out of the house!) The river was gorgeous as usual and the lovely grey-green color that it assumes when the water is butt cold. I imagined being in that water, and I shivered to myself. I love that river.
Back to robins for a little minute, did you know that when robins do migrate, they fly at 37 degree (F) isotherms? To the best of my understanding, this means they will ride a weather front, staying in the 37 degrees zone.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Epiphany: appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity, 2.(cap.) a Christian festival, observed on Jan. 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth Day. 3.a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or the essential meaning of something, often initiated by some simple, commonplace occurence. 4. a literary work or section of work presenting such a moment of revelation or insight. (Random House Webster's College Dictionary; 1991; Random House)

While no deity or Christ appeared to me yesterday, and neither am I a Magi or wise man, nor is this blog anything remotely resembling a literary ephiphany, I was moved yesterday on highway 25/70 by the simple, commonplace occurence of mid-winter morning sunlight softly but boldly sliding in sideways through low, thick snow clouds over the mountains. Baby blues and the faintest pink highlighted the bright white sky and ground. The deep wintry green of the mountainside conifers offered pleasing depth to what very well might be the closest I come to an epiphany this winter.

The everyday happenings of life on this planet seem to offer endless commonplace revelatory moments of intense beauty and realness. Life itself, with the inevitability of its Death (and rebirth)- the whole package deal- is the closest thing to a deity I can come up with this Epiphany.

On a related tangent: The recent appearance of a large flock of highly active and busy robins in the neighborhood has myself and several neighbors confounded and most interested. I suppose they are a nearby resident roost which is searching for winter berries and food to snack on. Their fluttery and chatty kinetic presence seems odd against the backdrop of a very still and quiet snowy terrain.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Road Trip Booty

Pregnant April wearing Aries vanity tee shirt while crafting a cheese omlet

Acquired booty from the road trip. Aww yeah...

Detail of booty part 1: Edible blue rose cake decor

Detail of booty part 2: Sir "I" and his boyz

Detail of booty part 3: lovely basket from April with unicorn stationary also from April

I took myself on a little road trip this New Years up to West by god Virginia, or Wild Wonderful West Virginia as some people call it. First stop was the home of dear friends April, Mike and Nathaniel Vincent, who relocated from Asheville this past spring. I was treated to some good solid relaxing hospitality which included my own room which had been meticulously rid of any cat body residue (hair, dander, etc.) for my breathing comfort, homecooked meals (including from scratch peroggis from her Polish great grandmother's recipe) that would have satisfied even the most starving confederate soldier, and very fun and funny playtime with 2 1/2 year old Nathaniel, whose birth came so quickly I missed it by five minutes due to the 45 minute commute from Hot Springs... I rocked out with him to his favorite songs: 5 Little Pumpkins, On the Road Again, and Me Lost me Cookie in the Disco. I did this many times. I was reminded of the naturally sweet and rexaled generosity of my friend April, who is expecting her second child and who is a wonderful mother. She is one of my hospitality role models. Mike is a dear soul who surprised me with his occasion outburst of song in a deep deep baritone voice that I didn't know about.

Second stop was the homestead in progress of JDH4th. He bought 5 acres and a 100 year old farm house (that comes with about 6 large outbuildings.) We toodled around in the the wet snow checking out his estate, and purusing the outbuildings, which were quirky and multipurpose- a sheep house that doubles as a pump house and very very large rainwater cistern and purification station. An old turkey house that doubles as an indoor mini basketball court and loft storage/potential studio space. A groovy root cellar only steps away from the kitchen door. And the list goes on. In one of the outbuildings we decided to casually glance into a couple of old dusty boxes that were left behind. Little did we know there was a treasure to behold- 2 boxes of late '80s and early '90s promotional paraphanalia for Sir "I", of the "Take the Time to be a Friend" musical campaign (that is sweeping the nation). JDH4th and I went nutz over that stuff. 8x10 glossy photos, demo tapes, "Take the Time to be a Friend" reminder cards. It was good. Real good. Turns out, Mike (April's husband), who is a school counselor, met Sir Isaac just a few weeks prior at his school. Turns out Sir "I" did an antibullying concert at the school. Turns out the "Take the Time to Be a Friend" Campaign is alive and kickin.

Third stop: Galax, VA. I stopped to visit old friend Sara Fennell and her posse on the way home. I had a KICK ASS spinach calzone that she made from scratch and some KICK ASS home made heart shaped oreo cookies. We took a power walk around a funny little elementary school track while her husband Willie Nelson, I mean Greg Korbler, and kids played a mean game of catch. I love that gang. Sara hooked me up with some BLUE ROSE EDIBLE CAKE DECORATIONS from Galax's very own Bake Shoppe (which doubles as a banjo and other stringed instrument rental and purchase shop...) You just wait, people. There is a cake in the works that is gonna knock your socks off your big stinky feet. You just wait.