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 ordered from our favorite chainsaw carvers (a wooden sign made from a piece of pallet), I met Chris at Freestone.
Yes, the land is named. Though we are (or maybe just I am) waffling between “Free Stone Farms” and “Freestone Farms.” When we decide, we’ll get our own wooden sign from the chainsaw carvers.
The name comes from our geology. The rock that our acreage sits on has been freed from the rest of the ridge, possibly by centuries of erosion from our spring running out of the mountain. On Google Earth, it’s a big, free stone. Freestone! Free Stone! Well.
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 a brave and inventive human being. Black Sunshine was down for the count long enough for a chickadee to build a nest on the engine and lay eggs.
During travel-filled March, we weren’t too worried about it, but as things got back to normal in April, we really needed a working farm truck.
Impressively and without prior truck wizardry experience, Chris diagnosed a lot of little issues online and by talking to friends, and now it’s running better than ever. Chris rocks!
So does the truck. Four months in, we’re even more happy with our choice. It 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 for us to fix 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 ours. This was fortuitous because there’s a part we desperately need but haven’t been able to find: a 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 gaspump 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 paint job – a little gasoline actually enhances Black Sunshine’s patina – but running out of gas is a concern. And that whole flammability thing.
A cap is easy enough to find (shoot, she came with an extra one in the toolbox), but it needs something to screw into. Enter the filler neck: connecting the tank to the outside of the truck so you can fill ‘er up. Finding this part isn’t as easy as you’d think; evidently many people have mangled their filler necks.
George found one on his lot, sold it to Chris for a tiny bit of cash, and it feels like Christmas.
When we finally got to Free Stone, Chris taught me how to use and care for an early b-day present, an awesome Stihl chainsaw, smaller sibling of Chris’ mega big chainsaw. We’re slowly removing the Virginia pines that are falling over, so I de-branched and sawed up a big tree that 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 thin tree top to help camouflage his blind.
Chris mowed the field to continue to choke out invading 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.
Even after pulling like 100 plants to help clear our little wetland basin, I’d hardly made a dent in the wineberry crop, i.e., we’ll have plenty of berries for jam and wine this summer.
It’s important to pull invasives by the roots, and while grabbing them low and sliding my hands slightly upward to avoid the thorns, that will penetrate thick gloves, 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 grow and 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 spring. Damp-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 during dinner. After one more stop at the auto parts store for more tweaks on the truck 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 the 5 morels. In lieu of shallots, wild garlic (harvested next to the morels) worked beautifully.
That’s a good and perfect Saturday in our world. One day soon, the chores will include building things, and the gains will look more dramatic, but for now, we’re patiently learning and preparing.