WNC Winter Prep & More

Quick update on the Weasel problem… They come and go as they please the sneaky bastards! We lost a couple more chickens and another guinea recently so I have had to up the defense measures. I just bought two foot traps today at the local store, Price Creek Market, for about $7 a piece. I kind of thought that I would never use traps like these that literally break the animal’s leg and hold him in place, but these weasels are bad news. So along with the live trap we are borrowing (thanks Lisa & David) and the three boxed rat traps I made, we hopefully will have this problem resolved soon. Then maybe I can make something from their pelts.

Recently I did find the neighbors’ dogs within our electric fence feasting on one of the dead chickens so that situation escalated quickly. I nicely left the unharmed dog on the neighbor’s front porch when they were not home and thought about putting the dead chicken in their driveway for them to see but thought better. I would need to talk to Lori first to see what she thought. Lori decided that the driveway would not suffice so it ended up on the porch with the dog. What better way to force a conversation with the neighbors about their nasty little dogs we thought…  Then the next day I caught another dog inside our electric fence. I decided that enough was enough and issued a warning shot with my 9mm at the dog to scare it away. Of course the neighbors were all outside and saw what happened. Still I heard nothing from the neighbors. The next morning the dead chicken on their porch mysteriously ended up in our fence again, 100 yards away from their porch. Lori thought we had lost another chicken but no, it was the same dead chicken from several days ago! Well, Lori had quite the conversation with them that morning to say the least and then I went and cleared up everything with Bobby & Dana that afternoon. They have been served notice that the dogs will be shot if they are found on our property again, their horse that we were nice enough to let them keep on our lower pasture is to be gone ASAP, and the 1/10th acre that they have fenced on OUR property is to be bought or the fence comes down. I think they know we are serious and not tenderfoot, city-folk now.

Furthermore because of the recent developments with the neighbors’ dogs, we have had to build a new 4’x8′ chicken coop closer to the house and more the electric fence around that new barnyard. Some of our bunnies are in their tractor inside this fence as well as our free-range chickens that sleep outside the coop. This did end up being very helpful because of the closer proximity to our clean water source and the house but was yet another setback on time and costs. It took about $350 more or less to make the quality coop which can easily house 7 laying chickens and a rooster. It also took two whole days to build and it would have taken more if my dad had not been able to come and help with the initial build. Thanks Dad! My mom came too and had lots of fun with the kids that day, so all was well. We also reinforced the barn rabbits area with plywood to keep dogs out and have so far had no problems there.

Winter has been quite odd here and all the locals agree that when there is as much rain as we have had in December that Winter will come hard in January and not let up until April. I hope that we don’t see that this year as we are not ready for such extremes yet, but we work everyday to try and reach our goals. The rain seems to have slowed dramatically over the past week and has been replaced by snow. We had a 1/3″ the other day of awesome fat snowflakes that were beautiful! You can see the snow here against the backdrop of the closest mountains for 1,000 yards as clear as day and the way it moves in different directions along that distance is really ethereal. You feel like you are in a snow globe.

Another project includes felling the deadwood standing on our hillside waiting to fall on some unsuspecting child. These tulip poplars are roughly 25-35 years old, 2-3′ thick, and 80′ tall. When they hit the ground the concussion is so great that you feel it in your whole body. I have felled six of the most precarious trees and still have five or six more to go. Each tree will yield a half cord of wood when split but it is poplar so that will burn fast in the future wood stove. I have chosen to fell all the trees with a traditional axe that was a Christmas present from my father-in-law. It is a Hults Bruk Aneby Axe which is a stout but light-weight axe that is great for hunting trips and medium jobs. It has done a mighty job and I look forward to using it each time. Thanks Pop! I decided to use an axe instead of the chainsaw for many reasons but mostly because with deadwood trees, you really need to hear what is happening. The last thing you want is the top 10′ to snap off and come down on your head. Especially while holding a chainsaw! Once down I use the chainsaw to cut them into 14″ lengths (perfect for the wood stove we want) and split them with a heavier splitting axe.

We have also made a trip to my parents’ home-under-construction in Greenville, SC to haul back workable lumber remnants from their build. The builder knows about our situation and is saving us good remnants of anything we may be able to use for projects around the farm. Good lumber can get expensive quickly! Thanks Mom & Dad!

We have also acquired a used generator from a friend in Anderson, SC for free which will come in handy went we lose power up here on the mountain! Huge thank you to Elizabeth Gray-Carr & Tom Carr!!! We will of course be helping them in their relocation to a new home when that happens as a small way of paying them back. Our community of friends and family is growing everyday.

There are countless other projects going on, weather permitting, like terracing our hillside for an agroforest garden, amending soils, adding more rabbits to the mix, grinding deer meat, helping our good neighbors with moving a 400lbs wood cook stove, redirecting spring water runoff (again), ongoing pond building, rock walls, digging, clearing more bramble, controlled burns, removing old trash, collecting leaf-litter and deer poop, and my quest to re-create something called Terra Preta. The later of those I will go into detail in a separate post as it has become a mental obsession of mine now.

Working here is like making 5 meals a day, for 5 people, all at once, while in 5 different kitchens… you have to have a bunch going on and tend to things as you can or you won’t find enough time in the end. Sometimes you burn the meatloaf but you just choke it down and move on.

We also just found out that we live 15 miles away from the couple Tony & Amelia from the National Geographic show “Live Free or Die” which is awesome!!! They do consults for people like us who are interested in permaculture and agroforestry so we are looking forward to meeting them hopefully and learning about our little piece of heaven.

And just to reiterate, it is REALLY cold here. No joke. On average about 5 degrees colder or more than Asheville. It hit 14 degrees the other night with wind chill and it will only get colder too. We wanted to experience all the seasons again but sometimes I feel the cold and think about the last time I felt weather like this… 20 years ago in Clermont-Ferrand France. I was 14 years old. Older bones don’t feel cold the same as young bones. Looking forward to Spring and all the warm weather work ahead.

Peace & Love to All!

T.S.

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