Today was Saturday, and since Chris and I work full-time jobs, weekends are for land.
After breakfast, corralling the yard dog back inside the dome, a trip to the dump, and a detour to pick up a housewarming gift for a friend from our favorite chainsaw carvers, a wooden sign made from a piece of pallet, I met Chris at Freestone.
Yes, the land is named. Well, named-ish. Working name is “Freestone Farms.” The name comes from the acreage’s geology. The rock our acreage sits on has been freed from the rest of the ridge by adjacent springs. On Google Earth, it’s a big, free stone. Freestone! But again, still a working name. When we decide on a name for sure, we’ll get our own wooden sign from the chainsaw carvers.
Chris spent the morning with Black Sunshine. Thanks to a crusty inline fuel filter and other carburetor issues, she was running rough. The fact that she’s running at all is thanks to Chris being resourceful and figuring out how to tweak a few engine parts to get her moving again.
She had been out of commission long enough for a chickadee to build a nest on the engine and lay eggs. During travel-filled March, we weren’t worried about it, but as things shifted back to normal in April, we needed a working farm truck. Impressively and without prior car-repair experience, Chris diagnosed a lot of little issues online and by talking with friends, and now she’s running better than ever. Chris rocks!
So does Black Sunshine. That truck has hauled literal tons of gravel as well as trees, lawnmower, ATV, and it looks darn good on the road. Any truck in our price range would’ve had repair issues, and in reality, we chose this one based on style, but we got lucky that it so happens the engine is huge, computer-free, and easy enough to work on ourselves.
In other good news, at the auto parts store this morning, the clerk pointed Chris to a Ford guy, George, in the hollow over the hill from the rental dome. This was fortuitous because there’s a part we desperately need but haven’t been able to find anywhere: gas-tank filler neck.
Black Sunshine didn’t have a working gas cap because the filler neck was bent where the cap goes on. This is probably because gas pump nozzles have changed sizes over time as gas ingredients changed. Either way, without a gas cap, she’s spilling a lot of high-dollar, ethanol-free gas all over east Tennessee’s country roads. We’re not worried about the splashes on the paint job. A little gasoline actually enhances Black Sunshine’s patina. But running out of gas is a concern. Plus the whole fire-hazard thing.
Evidently many people have mangled their filler necks, making this a tough part to find. George found one on his lot, sold it to Chris for a little bit of cash, and it feels like Christmas.
When we finally got to Freestone, Chris taught me how to use an early b-day present, a smaller Stihl chainsaw, sibling of Chris’ mega sized chainsaw. We’re slowly removing the Virginia pines that are falling over, so I de-branched and sawed up a tree Chris felled. I also took down a small cedar that had been wounded by another fallen tree. We cleaned it up to use as a pole for our future firewood shed, and Chris took the tree’s top to help camouflage the hunting blind.
Chris mowed the field to manage weeds and saplings as the grass sprouts, and I disappeared into the woods to pull more wineberry. Ah, wineberry. We’re not taking out many edibles (besides the kudzu), but wineberries think they own the joint, and are they ever thorny. Take a normal blackberry or raspberry stem and add a million tiny thorns. Wineberries may be the most delicious berry growing out here, but the plants in full shade never bear fruit, even 2- and 3-year-old canes are just a big wall of thorns.
It’s important to pull invasives by the roots. While yanking them, I had a good look at the forest floor, which, it turns out is home to more morels. I found a few last week, but they were tiny so I left them to spore. Today’s were bigger.
I didn’t come prepared with a foraging bag but put 5 in my open front pocket and took them out a few times to hopefully spread their microscopic spores. The morel the merrier.
It was fun to see wildflowers gaining strength on our mountain above the creek. Shade- and moisture-loving purple phacelia seems to love our land and should be at peak by next week.
As the sunlight and we waned, we packed up and headed to a country buffet for pork and chicken and green beans and pintos and cabbage and rice and ice cream. I dropped the morels into a water bottle to soak while we ate dinner. After one more stop at the auto parts store for more repairs on Black Sunshine tomorrow, we went dome.
With the morels drying on a paper towel, I crashed hard until 3 a.m. Land work will do this to you. I woke up hungry and decided to try this morel recipe. It was heavenly and worked in miniature with 5 little morels. In lieu of shallots, wild garlic harvested next to the morels worked perfectly.
That’s a good Saturday in our world. Hopefully one day soon, chores will include building things, and the gains will look more dramatic, but for now, we’re patiently learning and preparing.