Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Enormous Amounts of Rain

To give you an idea how much rain we have had here on the mountain, the picture below was taken on April 21st, 2011.

This following picture was taken April 27th, 2011.

This dark area on the left side of the pond is not a mini-BP oil spill. It is debris blown into the pond from the high winds.
The muddy water is a combination of enormous amounts of rain pounding soft fresh earth and a muddy pond bed. We have a series of unfortunate events at the moment........all of which can be repaired when the rains stop and the sun comes out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stuck in the Mud, Exhibit #2

My husband returned from the beautiful tropical climates of Miami, Puerto Rico and the Dominican to an unprecedented six consecutive days of torrential downpours, sustained winds up to 60 mph and tornado sirens blaring throughout the nights. He described the amount of water we have received as "Biblical proportions" and said the weather reminded him of hurricane seasons during our ten years living on the Gulf Coast. Big difference though.....hurricanes PASS THROUGH. This stuff doesn't seem to be going anywhere!!!

And, those of you who know me well will not be surprised at all to learn we are right in the middle of a major excavation project up here on the mountain. Lots of clearing, digging, rearranging of earth........which, combined with an enormous amount of water = MUD! Mud everywhere..........more mud than you can possibly imagine and as far as the eye can see.

I am a klutz. No big secret there. Everyday walking for me is an adventure. So, picture if you can my early morning walks, through the mud to see what the previous night's storms have brought. Every step looks like this!
If I step too quickly, the sucking power of the mud is much stronger that I am and I step right out of my boots. However, if I linger a fraction of a second too long, I just sink deeper. So walking through this is a very delicate balance..........but a fun challenge, nevertheless!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mudding is NOT Fun!

Last Friday afternoon, every vehicle you see in this photo was STUCK in the mud in my yard!
The stump grinder's big yellow machine got bogged down in the mud. We got my black 4-wheel drive truck to pull it out. My front tires got stuck in the mud. So we got the stump grinder's green 4-wheel drive truck. Both driver's side wheels buried up in the mud. Then we got Dennis 4-wheel drive side-by-side to try to pull it know where this is going.
Fortunately, the man in charge of this project is the sweetest guy EVER. He left his daughter's track meet to come up here and pull us all out with his bull dozer.
I sort of expected him to ban me from proceeding with any projects without his supervision. But I got off with just a "look" know, the kind of look a parent gives a child who has really screwed up and should have known better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bo and His Feminine Side

The storms were pretty bad today........lots of rain really quickly, dramatic lighting and high decibel thunder.

I opened the kitchen door that leads to the enclosed upper deck so the sounds and smells of the rain could come inside. I went outside briefly and when I came back in, I caught a a slight movement out of the corner of my eye.

Bo is my 100 pound alpha male dog who hates everyone but me who lives on the upper deck and to my knowledge, has never stepped a foot into the house. Bo is a tough guy and is not shy about reminding people of that fact. But, he loves me dearly and would protect me through thick and thin so I have had to fight keep him throughout the years, due to his many undesirable antics.

Apparently Bo was seeking a shelter from the storm better than his dog house and sleeping bag on the deck. He never moved and inch or even blinked as I walked toward him, asking what the heck he thought he was doing. I assume he thought he was perfectly camouflaged.

This immediately reminded me of people who park in other people's clearly marked parking spots. Obviously, this boy can not read.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Storms and Tornados Tonight

8:09 PM
The skies over our little town are very active tonight.
Warning sirens going off, regular television programming is off and stations are only reporting weather conditions.
This is the view from our upper deck.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pond and Vineyard Update

I have a new found respect for the men who operate heavy equipment. I have never seen a job description for this sort of work but I am positive it must include the following: *Must have nerves of steel, but a steady hand *Must be able to command a multi-ton machine with ballerina precision *Must be adaptable to work in extreme heat and cold in undesirable surroundings *Landscape architecture degree/experience required *Must be able to tolerate daily minor cuts, scrapes and bruises *Must not fear snakes, bear or other natural inhabitants of the environment in which you work. I have witnessed all of the above and for anyone who doesn't believe the enormous amount of skill required to do this job, come spend the day here, observing. There is a tiny margin for error in this work, and it is definitely not a "walk in the park" so to speak.

For some strange reason, when this pond was originally built in 1967, there was no back side. After the water reached a certain level, it just spilled out into the woods, finding its way down the mountain into the lowest elevation. That plan made for nice waterfalls and streams but is an odd concept for a containment pond. As you can see from the photo above, there is a distinct delineation in the color of the soil on the outer right side bank and the back bank. This is because the entire back bank had to be built from the ground up. This is the area where the water previously just flowed out into the woods.
Obviously, this is not complete, but for those of you who have asked for an updated photo, I think you will find this progression impressive, considering we are only seven days forward from the picture taken in the earlier post at the beginning of the project. on the vineyard.

For those who have followed this project, you know we are five years into this venture that few expected to be successful. The first two years, Dennis spent studying the sun patterns, the water drainage, tested soil samples, read countless books, attended wine schools from the University of Arkansas to Paris, France, talked with growers across the country, and prepared the plot of land. Before he got sick, my dad would come up here and listen to Dennis explain the plan and how he felt it would work. More than once, I could see a look on dad's face that clearly said "This city boy is off his rocker". Fortunately, Dennis never made that translation.

Three years ago, the tiny little Cabernet and Chardonnay sprouts were shipped from California and Audry House called from Altus to say the Cynthiana (Norton) cuttings were ready. And we have waited patiently, through drought, record cold and icy winters and extremely hot summers for the past three years to see what would happen. Dennis has tended these fragile vines in 100+ temps, sometimes hauling water by hand because our wells were so low. He has babied them when they were covered in ice so thick we feared they would break under the weight. But his spirit, nor the tiny little vines never did.

So, to see them doing so well is a delight we can't even describe. And this may just be the year we know what all of that means. If anyone deserves a reward, in this case healthy grapes, it would certainly be my husband who refused to give up or believe this couldn't work.

This rock wall is also a five-year labor of love. It is a long way from being finished, because it is literally being built, ONE ROCK AT A TIME. In the tradition of the centuries old vineyard walls in Italy and France, the rocks are stacked with precision, using no mortar. Each rock as come from the woods of the mountain and the four sides of the wall are very long. So this may be the project that never ends. But each rock has a history and together, they all tell a beautiful story.

I sort of like the idea that it is ongoing.....

From day one, this project has been a hopeful one........each phase has given me hope for the next one to come.

I have come to realize that these projects are really just metaphors for our lives. I believe we all have a need to leave something behind that is just a little better than the way we found it. Whether it be children, land, the environment, or living conditions for those around us.......we need to justify our time here. Otherwise.........what is the point?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Amber's New Bed

Amber with her Teddy Bear and Skunk....... This really is the size of a small sofa without legs. But then, she really is the size of a 135 pound person!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Giving an Old Pond a New Life

Continuing with my "Spring State of Mind" theme....... After years of planning and months of waiting, today is the day we begin the process of bringing new life to an old pond. When my dad built this house circa 1966, he also had a beautiful pond built. It was nestled gently into the woods to provide a peaceful sanctuary for not just it's two-legged admires, but also for the many four-legged ones that lived deep in the woods and had no water source except the small streams that flowed down the mountain after it rained. But 45 years of neglect by mountain inhabitants, and the lack thereof, had turned the once beautiful pond into an overgrown and dangerous marsh. After a good hard rain, the now tiny containment area would hold only a double-carport-size pool of water which always drained through the root compromised outside bank and down onto our road. An eyesore and a hazard in the best possible description. But today is the day that will all change. The bull dozer has arrived to begin the painstaking process of rediscovering my dad's original vision. And as you can see from the photo below, this is not going to be easy. When you can barely see a giant bull dozer among the overgrowth, it is a pretty good indication this will be slow going. It has been suggested that it would be much easier to just start all over and put the pond elsewhere. But this is where my dad put it, and this is where it belongs.So, please indulge me as I chronicle the process. And it will be a bitter-sweet one. I want so badly to retrieve my dad from the long-term care facility and bring him here to see that this thing he first built will have a new life again. But the danger of that outing combined with his severely altered state of mind will prevent that from ever happening. So, I guess just knowing this is the right thing to do will have to be good enough. Updates to come.........

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Without appearing overly optimistic, I am going to venture out on a limb and predict that Spring has finally come to the mountain!
Time to:
Plant some things
Clean the pollen off of all of the outdoor furniture
Watch the grape vines with baited breath, hoping this will be the year
Beware of where I step and always be mindful that snakes have the right-of-way
Put away the heat lamps and get out the fans for the dogs
Remember that I can not use sun screen left over from last summer
Continue the diet.......summer clothes are unforgiving
Rebuild the pond ......45 years of neglect has left only a large hole
Finish all of the projects I began over the winter
Clean out the closets
Do at least one good thing every day for someone else
Never forget the clock is ticking....and I am in the 4th quarter

This year, I think I will try harder than ever to let the seasons dictate my mental agenda. That being said, I will try and honor spring in its true sense of rebirth, renewal and growth. I want to read more, learn more, try to understand more, and grow a bit more outside the confines of my environment.
And I shall begin that conquest just as soon as I finish watching American Idol! Some things never matter how good the intentions.