Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shady Grove

In constant flux of movement and migration, Ecotone has acquired another animal.

With the welcoming encouragement of Jen and CJ, I moved to Ecotone in the dog days of summer and was promptly pastured in the farthest corner of the farm. Campsite A stands on a tall floodplain above the confluence of two dry creekbeds and below some of the oldest trees on the farm. Its place-name is Turkey Hollow, named for the wild turkeys who roam this stretch of woods. As we cleared away the underbrush, CJ picked up a beautiful feather and ceremoniously bestowed upon me the key to Turkey Hollow.

One partial purpose of these antics is a kind of sociological landscaping and construction project: to share in the chores and joys, the lessons and the fellowship of the farm, while creating and making comfortable a variety of guest quarters for future visitors and present occupants.
Settling in has been gradual and satisfying. It began with surveys of a couple possible campsites. Under the shade of old oaks and close to the pond, Turkey Hollow recommended itself as a cool place to wait out the hottest days of summer. Once the site was chosen, we entered a phase of creative demolition. This involved the removal of significant areas of underbrush, which my body remembers as consisting mostly of multiflora rose and poison ivy. Moving in has definitely been a community effort. Jen, CJ, and Mary have all contributed to housewarming the hollow.

The next phase was unexpectedly archaeological; as we cleared away the plants and tugged at roots, we uncovered old boards, broken glass, and rusty automobile parts. Thinking of waste management as a public service is a relatively recent phenomenon, and living with these seemingly endless scraps of the past seems somehow an appropriate reminder of the detritus we still produce and often forget. I also consider that these objects bother me more than they seem to bother any of the other inhabitants of the hollow. But I am glad to clear them out, if only for the tarnished mirror they present.

Finally, and slowly, construction began. The primary bulding materials have been woodchips, acquired for free from a local tree-trimming company. After pulling old car parts out of the dirt, it feels right to return the forest to the forest floor. My tools have also been pretty straightforward -- mattock, axe, shovel, rake.

To tie the room together, I bargained with the manager at our local grocery, Tony's Foodland, to acquire a small picnic table (made by the store butcher, who has a side operation making picnic tables in his garage). Finally, CJ and I hung a reading hammock, for study or relaxation.
The biggest challenges so far have been humidity and bugs. But all said, we were blessed this year with a mild August in Tennessee, with every weekend heralding the approach of autumn, and already September promising to prove the trial worthwhile.
It took the birds a few days to find the feeder, but lately I've had visitors in the evening. This indigo bunting and another (his lady?) have begun to take their evening repast in the hollow.
The future is fortunately full of possibility. A little bit like the eggs these chickens are fixin to lay. Mud huts, straw bales, log cabins, cast iron cooking, cobblers, campfires... I am looking forward to the projects out on the farm.

1 comment: