It seems technology has failed Ishimo yet again and I have been tasked with entertaining you in this issue of “An Off Grid Adventure”.
So, let me first apologize, as english was my lowest graded class in all 16 years of “paid” education. I will do my best with current grammar checkers, spelling checkers, and a few trips to Checkers to try to make this as readable as possible. Considering the anticipated nuclear reaction to my non sequitur view point, I am going to stay incognito and you can just refer to me as Nom de Plume, of course related to the Long Island Plumes, going way back to the Plumes from across the big pond.
Next on the agenda, I was sent a text, well really a waterfall of texts, from Ziggy asking me to put in a few things Ish refuses to post for him. First, Ziggy says he is not getting the expected amount baloney, snausages, & and general treats he would have thought he would have gotten from such a large fan base. So he is sending out another plea for goodies. Claiming he is deserving of them because when you have a smeller that is 100 times more effective than a humans and he has to smell them, there should be a payoff. So message passed on, you all take it as you see fit
As for out on the ranch. Ish has hopefully made a deal to trade trees for clearing. The back 40 may soon see waves of amber. Draining from the culverts is still progressing to a positive result. With any luck the great flood may recede by 2025. Which of course will mean the property will become “valuable” and the rich will come in, force the taxes up, and the good hard working out. Remember when only the “poor” had small paned windows because that is all they could afford? Now you have to make a six figure paycheck to afford a 6 over 6 window pane. Do not get me wrong, I am not disparaging the notion of making money, it just seems wrong to me when people of lesser means find a way to do something, a place to call home, or create an amazing meal with little. And then a bunch of hoity toity come along, they find they like the idea, the place, or the food. And within ten years all of sudden you have to part of the “in” crowd to afford the idea, place, or food. But here I am rambling on because of well placed culverts. <Pay no attention to the crazy behind the curtain>.
Ish is still attempting to get the shower in, hard to get it done alone and the people who want to help (aka: Nom de Plume) are just too far away to swing in and assist. I am though hoping to stay at the Ishimo8 someday. Anyone who knows Ish, knows you could not ask for a better friend. Back to the shower….., Ziggy has made complaints about Ish not getting the shower in also (the nose thing I suppose).
I can not post any pictures of the Ishimo8, as I am here, not there. But I have chosen some random pictures from the internet to please your third sense.
I have very little to report this time. Other than a walk about all I did today was get everything put away for my trip back to town. I got here about noon, took a shower, did my vegetable imitation for a couple of hours took a nap, then tried a different vegetable for a change.
Anyway here’s some rambling stuff from the shack in the swamp.
Back in the swamp again. I was up early today, ran to town for some last minute stuff, bought 140 pounds of ice, loaded the Boy and headed out. The roads on the way out were in very good shape so I made decent time right up until I got to my road. Even then it was fairly dry with no white knuckle driving required.
At the shack unloading was uneventful except the cooler. With 80 pounds of ice it always merits a short porch sitting event. There was a strong wind blowing so after I opened the place up it was fairly cool within minutes. The strong wind reminded me that I hadn’t finished nailing down the steel straps holding the roof on so I spent a couple of hours getting them tied in. I did a rough count and there were a bunch of them (more than 10, I didn’t take my boots off) which makes me feel better about the upcoming hurricane season.
I spent some time spreading a snake repellent that was highly recommended online and found at Ace. Afterward I was nearly regretting it since it has a moth ball smell mixed with some foul odor I didn’t even want to identify. The smell went away after a couple of hours or maybe every smell sensor I had is now fried.
As I was spreading it I thought “I wonder if this works?” Then I thought “How would I know?” It’s kind of like vampire repellent. Do you see any? In truth this came up in a conversation with a good friend but it sounds better when I tell it this way.
Then I went on my regular walk about. This is where I walk some of the property and the road in front. Ziggy loves it because he gets to run up and down the road at top speed and hopefully (in his mind) splash me with mud when passing a puddle. Not sure what he’s going to do if the mud ever dries out. Spit at me maybe. Dunno, we’ll see.
The swamp is down a lot. There’s no water flowing across the road and I could see mud for several feet on both sides instead of water. I was hearing logging going on south and west of me so I’m wondering if they have done something to open the flow up. Sometime this week I’ll take a ride that way and see if I can tell what has happened. Tomorrow morning I’ll walk to the back swamp on my property to see how far it has dropped. It would be nice if I had 5 or 6 acres drying out and available for use.
I visited hog wallow number 2 which is also drying. I might be able to walk it this week without sinking up to my knees and get a feel for
how big it is. At some point I want to dig a pond. A hog wallow is an ideal place since there is no foot deep root mat to deal with.
On the way back from my walk I stopped and looked at the shack for a minute. Holy crap what a dump! There’s piles of material, tools everywhere, half finished projects at every turn and no end in sight.
My priority this week is get the siding up and build a shower. I’m going to have a shower this week if I have to stand on a ladder and dump water on my head. I want to mount the water tank about 10 feet off the ground. This will mean I have a tank of water that weighs about 350 pounds ten feet up. Question is how do I tie it down so it doesn’t blow over?
First idea is to pour a pad and tie the 4x4s to the pad. Problem is I have no concrete right now. So I would have to dig and level an area, go to town, buy concrete then come back. Then mix and pour about 20 bags of concrete. That is a lot of work. A whole lot of work.
I could bury the 4x4s about 2 feet in the ground. Then in about 2 years have the whole thing collapse on my dumb ass while I was in the shower. It’s looking like I’ll have to make a concrete run this week.
It’s supposed to get down to 50 tonight. Which means that it will be in the 40s out here. I’ve lit three candles which surprisingly do very well at keeping the chill down. I set the kerosene heater out just in case. I’ll know it’s time to light it if the Boy gets in bed and dives under the covers tonight.
This morning it was pretty cold. Not light the heater cold but cold enough I didn’t mind sharing the bed with Ziggy. Boy is like an electric blanket. Then it happened. Noise on the porch!
I grabbed a pistol and headed that way. I expected Ziggy to be excited and ready to attack. All I heard was marauding raccoons and some faint snoring coming from underneath the covers. So I charged outside, shined the flashlight around and didn’t see anything except the mess they had made. Meanwhile back in bed Ziggy wasn’t in any mood to negotiate space at all. I looked at the clock and put the water on for coffee.
Tonight I have a surprise for the little democrats. I’ve blocked off part of the porch and spread mouse traps everywhere. It might not do much to deter them but at least I’ll wake up laughing.
Had a good day anyway. Walked the back part of the property and the swamp is indeed down overall. The band of marsh which keeps me from getting to the back 20 acres might be dry enough soon that I can get a footbridge in. I would really like to see what is back there.
Broke out the tools, generator, air compressor and was all set to put up siding. Then disaster struck. I remembered that I’m afraid of heights. Along about noon I kicked myself in the butt and started climbing ladders. By six I had one side completely done except for a strip that I’ll do on the balcony tomorrow.
I’m planning on completing a side before I move on to the next. The new ladder is heavy as hell so moving it is a study on sweat. So I’m going to finish screwing down the top, seal the seams and paint before I move on.
I’ve become concerned about the screws holding the siding on. I didn’t learn until today that I should be using screws and liquid nails. Many of the screws are in nothing more than 1/2” plywood. So I have all these screws sticking through the walls. I’ll be putting insulation over them but feel like I should reinforce the joint somehow.
I might buy a ton of shoulder washers and a couple of quarts of fiberglass resin then just fiberglass them in. No individual joint would be all that strong but overall it would significantly increase the integrity of the wall. Might not be a bad idea to do the screw heads outside as well. A layer or two of cloth on the inside would really strengthen the joints. I don’t like working with fiberglass but the idea is really appealing.
I’ve decided to leave the first floor unfinished inside and finish out the second floor. This is based on the belief that the second floor will become living quarters and the first will be storage and guest quarters. Not that I won’t appreciate my guests comfort if I have any but a bed, a fan and Ziggy is about all anyone can expect.
Been a couple of days. Went to town Sunday night for some air conditioning, a shower and a bed that doesn’t slide around when I move. Next morning I made a quick trip to town for some material and ice (of course) then headed back to the swamp.
I have the siding complete on one side of the shack with most of the base coat of paint on. The backer board and thin set soaks the paint up like a sponge so it is going to take a lot of painting before I’m convinced that it’s well sealed. I started with some OD green then went to a gallon of khaki I had bought by mistake. (two gallons truth be told) I started pouring the remainder of the green in so I ended up with several shades of green and some khaki. Once I got to the second floor I kept going out to the road to see what a color looked like through the trees and brush.
I found out it really didn’t matter much. Just about any shade of green faded into the foliage and pretty well disappeared. Except for the window and roof line. I can paint the frame of the window and hide that but it will still be a large rectangle of glass and screen that sticks out like a sore thumb. The roof line will more or less disappear once I get the nerve to climb up there and paint the 6x6s. By the time I get to using a rattle can I’m confident I can convince the eye to look elsewhere.
I’m not expecting total stealth yet. Once the bamboo and trees grow enough my shack will be totally concealed from the road. Hopefully that will be late summer this year. If not next year for certain.
Speaking of bamboo, the giant bamboo I put in the ground about a month ago is over two feet tall now. I’ve read that under ideal conditions it can grow up to six feet a day. I’d settle for 30 feet by the end of this summer. From the looks of it that might be a realistic goal. The other plant I put in the ground about three weeks ago appears to be settling in and is beginning to show signs of growth.
It’s finally happened. I’m losing it. On my walk this morning I noticed a dragonfly on my shoulder. I thought this was a rather nice surprise so I began to talk to it. I explained that I really admired the dragonfly race and that I would really like to be sort of an ambassador to the dragonfly kingdom. (for anyone who doesn’t know it dragonflies are fierce hunters of mosquitoes and yellow flies) I then invited him and all his buddies to live at my shack and follow me around all they wanted. I even offered to build little dragonfly houses with a white picket fence and a station wagon with wife, kid and shaggy dog on each seat. At just about that point he fell over dead. So much for my skills as a bug whisperer.
I tried an experiment that I hoped would help rid me of stumps. I have zillions of stumps from brush sticking up and some of them are 2+ inches in diameter with as many as a dozen in a group. Below ground they are a mass of roots with thicknesses that cause a mattock to go “Sproingggg!!!” when hit.
So I thought why not build a small very hot fire over the stumps to burn them and the roots out in one fell swoop? So I tried it. I poured a couple of pounds of charcoal over the stumps, put a steel fire ring down to contain the heat and blaze then lit that sucker off. Then lit it off again. Then added some lighter knot. Then poured more lighter fluid on it and lit it again. It finally lit. And burned for 14 hours. Well, at least burned then smoked that long. By the end of the day I was all excited when running over to check the results. You can imagine how I felt when I realized I had about a dozen flame hardened stumps to deal with now. All I can figure is that the roots were able to pump enough water to the stumps to keep them from burning. Maybe I should bury a spinning hub cap under one of the stumps then let it leak to the local mezcan population that one is buried somewhere out here.
Back in town for a couple of days so time for an update. I spent 10 days in the swamp with two trips to town. Both trips were for material and ice. Oh, and a shower.
Greetings from the swamp. I brought my laptop out this time thinking that I would write some every day or so. Well, it’s been six days and here’s the first.
I bought the siding for about half the shack and started putting it up. I got two rows on one side nearly done and realized that this isn’t going to happen without an extension ladder. So as usual the plan has to evolve for now. So I’m doing the first two rows on three sides then when a ladder is available I’ll finish. Note: As usual I didn’t get much past the bottom two rows on the first side. Best of intentions and all but events plus the sun took over.
To do the back side I’ll have to take the rain barrel down so I might as well build a tower to mount it on while I’m at it. While I’m doing that I’ll do the tower for the hot water tank on the east side. Then I can go ahead and build a valve manifold and outdoor shower. Which will make the Boy happy. Not that he would ever get in a shower but he’s visibly happier after I have.
.It rained hard core for two days. I’ve been putting a grape/muscadine arbor in and had three of seven rows done. This morning I went out to start again. After digging about six inches I hit water. When you hit water like that here you might as well find something else to do since as fast as you dig the hole fills. All you are doing is creating a depression from the sand running into the hole. By afternoon it was dry enough I was able to finish the hole and get another plant in. Maybe tomorrow I can get the last three in and start something else. Or maybe not. I finished the arbor but forgot to take a pic. It turned out to be six plants since the seventh succumbed to extended abuse and expired. I cremated it’s spindly little body with appropriate honors in a very touching ceremony.
Time out here loses meaning. Today I started wondering what day it was then thought “Who cares?” Then I began wondering what month it was. You guessed it, “Who cares?”
Some neighbors to the north were up for a few days. I had a great
time visiting with them and watching them spoil the Boy even more. He seems to find a way of capturing every heart he encounters and reduces grown men to that time when they all wanted a big old ugly dog to love. For my part I got a bag of goodies when they left, two really nice trees and a bowl of most excellent stew.
The trees are an avacado and a mango both over three feet tall. I was very happy to get them. Now I have to find a good place to plant them. I know that with 30 acres to work with I should have no problem finding suitable planting sites but it’s not all that easy. For starters digging a hole around here isn’t as simple as just sticking a shovel in the ground. In the background you can see my wood burning stove sans legs patiently waiting to go inside. First I have to finish putting down backer board and tile. Add that to the list.
This is the swamp. Everything here is fighting tooth and nail to survive and uses every trick in the book to do so. The entire ground is a thick mat of roots that vary in size from a hair up to several inches thick. Until recently I had never thought of a sawzall as a gardening tool. Still, except for some bamboo, everything I’ve planted is thriving and shows a lot of promise. I’m hoping the location I find for the mango and avacado does well for them.
Plans for road repair are moving along. We now have three people willing to kick in cash and another willing to help with equipment. Since I made a trip to town for material yesterday I have ice for another three days so I might be able to finalize plans when I get back whatever day that is. Once I have a final price for delivery I can start lining up help to spread and set a date to kick things off.
I killed what I think was a copperhead about four feet long in front of the truck the other day. I heard the Boy carrying on and went over to see what was going on. When I got there Ziggy was running circles around the snake and trying to find an opening. Hollering at him was useless so I got a stick and waded in. Once I got the Boy off the snake it started booking and I started shooting. Ever try to shoot a running snake with a 45? I hit him on the third shot. By then the Boy was in the shack hiding since he’s scared to death of gunshots. I was using Oath Talon ammo which is some nasty stuff. It cut the snake nearly in half and he was still trying to get away. I went and got a 410 shotgun pistol and shot him again. That put him down for the long count finally. I put the 45 away and am carrying the 410 now.
I’m sure someone is going to look at the picture and say “That’s not a copperhead. It’s a gentle giant on the way to the 7-11 to get some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea.” Yeah. I killed his ass. Live with it. His momma come around here bitching I’ll pop a cap in her ass as well. Since then someone knowledgeable in snakeology took a look and told me that it was in fact poisonous.
Slept in till nearly 8 this morning and did a bunch of porch sitting. It was just one of those days.
I did get the last of the muscadines planted and now have six rows of them. The water table was down to about a foot so I figured I had better get it done before the next rain. Once the plants are established I don’t anticipate ever having to water them. If anything it may be to wet for them and I’ve just wasted a decent amount of cash and labor. However, the wild muscadine vines are thriving in the same location so things could go well.
I’ve cut a couple of wild muscadines back to the ground and put in a stake for them to grow on. I want to see if they will produce grapes when pruned properly. If they do I’m living on 30 acres of muscadine plantation which could produce enough hooch to power a major city. If not I’ll have to buy more round up.
Once I start to see some grapes growing I’ll have to figure out how to keep the raccoons away. I saw a solar powered electric fence at another property today so that may be part of the solution. I really don’t want to go on a crusade and commit raccoonicide but that may end up being what I have to do. Maybe I could trap them and relocate them to somewhere they would be more welcome. Unfortunately most of the people I truly hate have Secret Service protection and I doubt I could get close enough to throw a very angry raccoon at them.
The Boy went off today, ran in front of the truck and began making
battle sounds. Thinking “snake” I ran over while drawing my pistol. “It’s a giant armored dinosaur!” he yelled. Not hardly. I put the Boy on lock down and went back to confront the monster. By the time I got there the turtle had covered nearly
two feet and was in high gear getting out of Dodge. I gave him an assist to the other side of the road then washed my hands twice since he pissed all over them. I kept the Boy on lock down for about an hour and sat on the porch with him just in case the giant armored dinosaur returned. See, I knew I had a good reason for sitting on the porch all day.
I began work on a double sink I got out of the trash pile at the campground I stay at. This mostly consisted of taking it out of the back of the truck and staring at it for awhile. Well, I sat on the porch and stared at it. I’m thinking of mounting it on the front porch and running a drain out to a gray water collection tank. Its uses will be many. I can wash dishes instead of hauling them back to town to do. I can put up a shower curtain and take a bath instead of using a bucket. OK, its uses will be two but it will be an improvement around here.
I hooked up with a guy who just got here today and we visited a couple of properties. I have to quit that. When I see what other people have done out here it makes coming back to the shack rather depressing. Of course they are years, dollars and manpower ahead of me but it’s still hard to see what can be versus what I’ve got done so far. Maybe more work and less porch time is in order.
But then I also get a lot of good ideas from seeing what others have figured out. One guy had faced regular lumber with wood cut out from dead trees. It was skillfully done so I had to look twice before I realized what he had done. It looked great. Once inside his steel metal building you had the impression that you were in a rough cut log cabin. But that’s an idea for another day and another building. I have my hands full with the shack.
I did borrow a 16 foot ladder so I may be able to finish the siding, seal the seams and paint. I have to figure out how to get a 26 pound piece of backer board about 14 feet in the air, set it in place and screw it down while on a ladder. I had an idea for a pulley, rope and a harness on Ziggy. Then I had a vision of him spotting a tree bear and what would happen after that. I might have to sit on the porch awhile and think about this. I did just that and came up with zip. More porch time needed maybe.
I hauled a bunch of brush today and put it in the driveway and parking area. An 8000 pound truck with big mud tires is hell on wet ground and I was becoming worried that I would turn the whole area into a giant mud bog. Then I looked at an area I had just cut the brush and drove over it. It is being damaged but nowhere near as bad as the areas with no brush. It’s a bit disconcerting the first few times you drive over it and hear the snapping and crunching. But after a few trips that stops so you just add more. I’m having to go further and further to get cut brush but at least I don’t have to wait on rain to burn it. And it’s not like there is a brush shortage going on around here. I could probably pave this area with four feet of crunched brush and still have enough to build a mountain.
Another day, another,,,,,,well, another day.
I was up before the crack of dawn today and sat on the porch sipping coffee and watching the sunrise. There’s a sudden quiet when I walk outside but after a few minutes things start to crank up again. As the sun comes up things really get cooking that sometimes you just feel this urge to shout “SHUT UP!!!!” at the top of your lungs.
I had the best of intentions this morning and quickly set about assembling all the tools and materials to put up siding. I had the generator gassed, extension cords laid out, skill saw and nail gun all primed and ready to go. Then I got a text about a culvert going in and would I help. So I put everything away (actually I just piled it up on the floor of the shack), loaded Ziggy and the cooler then set off for a culvert adventure. I loaded the cooler since I figured that if I was going to drive that far out I might as well go to town and get ice.
When I got there the culvert was in, water was flowing and the road graded. So I stood around with the rest of the group and watched water flow for about 20 minutes. We speculated on how much was flowing per minute, how fast the swamp would drain, what the benefit to us would be and other such weighty matters. All in all it was an entirely unproductive but enjoyable 20 minutes. Then I was off to the big city lights and the ice machine.
On the way back out I stopped again at the new culvert and spent another useless 5 minutes watching the water flow. After all I needed to be able to make an accurate report once I got back to the swamp.
It was 5:30 by the time I got back to the shack and 96 degrees. So I tended to the ice then sat on the porch and took a nap. Score for the day: got ice, watched water flow for 25 minutes. Not a bad day all in all. Tomorrow morning I plan on siding again but there’s talk of another culvert so who knows?
The next day I had early visitors and was invited to go for a ride. So we loaded the Boy (literally, had to pick him up and set him in the devil machine) and set off. After cruising various mud holes while looking for snakes to shoot we ended up back at his place. He then said he was going to bring his tractor down and bush hog some brush for me. I quickly said yes and we were off again.
Two hours later he had cut more brush than I could cut in over two weeks. He opened up all the trails I had previously cut as well as cut a couple of new ones. Walking it afterward I noticed that the ground appeared to be smoother and realized that I was walking on mulch deposited in the low areas while he was mowing.
One of the paths he extended for me was straight south to where I thought the swamp would be. He went about another 40 feet and hit a bog. Surveying it disclosed that it was a major super highway for hogs plus possibly an open air convention center. There must be at least 30 game trails in and out with more hog sign than I could count. This explains why I hear hogs all night long. In the picture, center frame, you’ll see a large brown area. This is the remains of a pile of logs about three feet high that he simply turned into dust nearly. Going between the two trees you have several feet of relatively dry ground then the hog wallow. This is actually the second hog super highway I’ve found. This one was way to wet to wade through so I’m not sure about relative size. Besides I’m the worst at judging area and distance. It could be a hundred square feet or a hundred square miles. It’s all the same in my mind. It’s an area that is useless to me at this time so it might as well be on the moon. Still, once you get back to it, it is pretty. Except for the clouds of mosquitoes and yellow flies. If it wasn’t for the stench I would have dropped to the ground and rolled around in the mud just to get them off me.
I took a few pics from the road just to see how stealthy my construction has been. Though it seems that I stick out like a sore thumb I’m actually pleased with the results. In these pics you are seeing the second floor minus siding and camo paint. I also have bamboo planted between the road and the shack which will further hide it once established. Since the shack won’t be moving I can paint it to match the brush thus further hiding it. Not much I can do about the windows but I can attach some tree limbs with spanish moss to help disguise them. If I were starting to build today I would build 100 feet further in and about the same further south. But hey, I had to start somewhere.
Two nights ago I was invited to dinner at another neighbors place. Of everyone I’ve ever met he is undoubtedly the most self sufficient. I was given the nickle tour and was constantly impressed with the detail that he had went to in building his place. I didn’t want to appear to be to inquisitive so I restrained my curiosity and only asked about ten thousand questions. I’m hoping for another invitation sometime in the future so I can do a detailed examination of the hidden works and inner mechanisms of his systems.
OK, so I’m a Rita Coolidge fan. Wanna fight about it?
Wow! Only been about a week since the last post. Seems like more. A whole lot has been going on with a net result of not much. It’s kind of funny how you can feel like you are racing like mad only to look back and figure out that you were spinning your tires the whole time.
It rained. A lot. The roads were finally drying out, the mud settling into nice hard bottoms then it all started over again. My neighbor to the north was out for several days so we spent a day working on “Our Road”. I emptied the back of the truck and off we went to town. A short visit to the concrete plant and 55 of his dollars later saw us heading back out into the great swamp. We discussed at great length where to put the rock, how many loads would be needed and how great it would be once we had licked the muddy road demon once and for all.
Turning onto “Our Road” we were in high hopes right up until the time that we realized that the truck was sitting a good four inches lower with the gravel in back. Since the truck weighed right at 10,000 pounds with the gravel it didn’t hesitate. It bottomed out and was stuck solid.
“Not to worry!” says I. “We’ll shovel the gravel out, fill the hole, the truck will raise and we’ll drive on out.” Pffffffttttt!!!! We shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled even more. We filled the hole in front of the rear tires and in back. However the truck had no intention of raising and stubbornly refused to budge.
Luckily another neighbor from a better behaved road heard us and came to the rescue. A tow rope and 30 seconds of pulling had the truck out enough that continued shoveling worked. We then dumped the remainder of the gravel, pulled through the hole and took a moment to admire out handiwork. Ever see two grown men cry like scared little girls? It ain’t pretty.
You could hardly tell that we had even been there. The hole swallowed up about a cubic yard of gravel and was still hungry. Obviously our plan had fatal flaws.
Here’s a pic of a hole in front of my property. The swamp is actually flowing across the road so widening the road to avoid it isn’t an option. The armchair reaction is easy, put in a culvert and fill it. Ever try to dig a 14 foot long 18 inch wide and deep trench with a shovel? Much less a trench with the swamp running through it. If I hit the lottery this week I’ll buy a front end loader and back hoe then trenches will be easy. Till then we have to figure out how to fill the hole and direct the swamp to someone else to deal with.
Back at the shack I’m getting worried about the Mean Little Bastard. I haven’t seen him on his bar stool for several days so I’m concerned that he may have got tanked and had a wreck. Or picked a fight with a sparrow or some other large bird. If he doesn’t show soon I’ll have to check into getting his picture on a milk carton.
I took several toys up with me this last trip and the neighbor and I spent an afternoon shooting 2x4s, tin cans and some paper. Of note was the Kel Tec PMR30 in 22 magnum. We set up some 2×4 and started blasting away. He shot it and it didn’t move. Since we were only shooting at about 15 yards neither of us could believe he missed it. So we put the guns away and walked out to inspect. He hit it. The FMJ I had in it went through it so fast the 2×4 never even noticed. Next up I loaded some 40 grain polymer head cartridges. When they hit the 2×4 flew in the air decisively. Inspection showed that the polymer head penetrated most of the way and blew the back out of the wood. I never knew the 22 magnum was such a powerful little load.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record again. I cleared, and cleared, and cleared.
I’m wanting to bring in a couple of 20 foot conex boxes but need a flat, level place to put them. I know I will have to bring in some kind of fill but want to have a good place to put it.
My front yard is out of the question. There are so many rotten logs there that it would take a dozer to level it. So I started on the side working north. I believe I’ve found an area which will work with some more clearing and maybe a dump truck of fill.
The driveway in is coming along nicely. I had to widen it three times since I was tired of driving over trees to get in and out. I have a gate planned right on a sharp turn which will give some security once I block the front.
Nights are getting better since I can pretty much heat the shack with a couple of candles plus maybe a can of sterno. One night it got pretty chilly so I got up about 3 am to light the kerosene heater. It took about 15 minutes to get it lit and make sure that all was well then I was ready for bed. When I got back the Boy was in the middle of the bed and not giving up any ground. His attitude was “You left it. I found it. It’s mine now.” I spent the rest of the night asleep in a chair next to the heater.
I’ve decided I want two conex and a 500 gallon propane tank brought in. No need to point out the obvious reasons for that. Thing is I have to get the road up to speed to do it.
The neighbor wants to bring some conex in as well and has offered to help with the cost of fixing the road. This will help greatly. Another neighbor who only gets out about once or twice a year has offered to help which will help. However since his use of the road is very limited in my mind his contribution should be as well. I use it the most so I’ve decided to take the lions share as much as I can.
I was talking to a friend in town today who owns two Chariots of the Gods. DUMP TRUCKS! I worship this guy. OK, anyway, he’s going to give me a hand with this. The nearby interstate is about to be resurfaced soon and that means dump truck loads of asphalt ground up and hauled away. His trucks will be participating in this. Instead of 800 dollars for a load of gravel I may be able to get this asphalt grind up for around 400 dollars a load.
Spreading will be a problem. It will be me, with a shovel, and me with a rake. I’ve told him to expect to deliver about every four days. I’m hoping two loads will do mostly do the four holes which need immediate attention.
Tomorrow I’ll be buying supplies in preparation for a trip out Wednesday. Wednesday morning I’m taking the truck owner out for a first hand look so he can tell me what I need to do. I’ll head back to town, load up from storage then head out for a week on Thursday.
Some pics before closing. This is a shot of my back yard from the balcony. The driveway comes in from the top and you can see that I’ve cut the brush back to the north a good deal. A lot of the bushes/trees left standing will be taken out since I didn’t want to fight the brush cutter since a chain saw is much easier.
Next is the side yard looking west. The open area on the right is where I think I can put the conex boxes. The track is about 90 yards vs the 125 I previously thought. The poles are markers at 25, 50 and 75 yards. Eventually the whole front of the property will have these markers going out as far as I can reasonably see/shoot. I expect though that I won’t have many shots over 100 to 125 yards.
Here’s the front/side yard. You can tell that the ground is a nightmare. There are about 20 rotten logs there waiting to puncture a tire or trip you up. I’ve not pushed it back much since last post so there’s not much change.
Next is the front yard looking slightly west. The track in the middle
heads out to the hog wallow which I haven’t taken a pic of yet. The crooked tree in the middle of the frame in back is another track in waiting. Oops. You can’t see the crooked cypress can you? Well imagine you can. I’ll get a pic for next time.
Last is the front yard. Again not much change other than I’ve done some cleaning. The pile of ookum is a bunch of roofing tiles that I’ve not worked up the energy to move. Those things are heavy as heck.
In closing, my bamboo is doing well. I was finally able to upload a pic of the really giant bamboo I had previously thought dead. The pic is about two weeks old but it is already about a foot tall and has grown a lot since then.
I had a really great post written up last night. Then I tried to upload some pictures to add in. At that point CenturyLink freaked out, couldn’t upload, then everything crashed and I lost everything. Someday there will be war trials and someone from CenturyLink will have to answer for this.
So I’ve continued clearing, burning, planting, painting, tote that barge and lift that bail. My to do list has shrunk a tiny bit but only because I’m refusing to add to it at the present time. Also every time I sit down to update it I usually wake up about 15 minutes later with absolutely no idea why I sat down to begin with.
I’ve begun burning small piles of brush and moving the burn sites around. I started close to the shack and am moving outward with every burn. This helps me see what the ground is like plus gives a dead zone to act as sort of a fire break. It can be tiresome in areas where there are a lot of rotten logs. Unless the logs are saturated from a heavy rain they tend to smolder sometimes for hours after the burn. A strong wind can cause flare ups so having a lot of water on hand is a must. In some areas there are so many logs that you can’t touch the ground for fairly long distances. This is exciting at times since you might be walking along, hit a soft spot then sink a few inches up to about a foot into the rotted wood. I’m concerned about sinking onto some snake that doesn’t share my peaceful views.
A few days ago I was cutting a path and across a pile of logs about three feet high, 12 feet across and about 30 feet long. Crossing it while carrying a 40 pound brush cutter was both a job and an adventure. Thankfully it was so high that there was no brush growing on it. At some point I’ll have to level it and spread the wood pulp around.
I put up a hummingbird feeder then sat back with visions of a flock of buzzing little birds merrily feasting on the free buffet. I figured that as soon as the word got out there would be hundreds of tiny emails zipping around at the speed of light which would hook me up with the hummingbird network. So far, I have one bird. And he’s a mean little bastard.
He stops off for a fill up on his way to work in the morning but really hits the sauce on his way home in the afternoon. He has a favorite “flower” and though he samples all the “flowers” he always returns
to his favorite watering hole. Today he came buzzing in right on schedule. I was really excited to see another one approaching a few seconds later while visions of clouds of happy little buzzing birds began to form. No such luck. Though the newcomer was twice his size he went to war and ran him off. I don’t know what’s in that sauce I mixed up but it must be some kind of hummingbird crack. In the picture he’s on the left sitting on his favorite bar stool.
I’ve been planting more bamboo. The other day I noticed that the giant bamboo I thought dead was putting out shoots. This really excited me since it was very, very expensive. It also grows to about 100 feet tall under ideal conditions and gets 6 to 10 inches in diameter at the base. I’ve read that it can grow several feet a day when conditions are perfect so I’m burning candles for the bamboo conditions gods. I was asked what I would do with bamboo 100 feet
long and I thought “I’ll be the only person I’ve ever known who has a piece of bamboo 100 feet long.” Anyway, I planted it. The first two days it grew nearly a foot and shows no sign of slowing down so I am really glad I didn’t trash it while it looked dead. Meanwhile I’m having a hell of a time uploading pics so there may not be many.
Today I made a run out and took my dresser, several boxes of parts/materials and some dishes. With the second floor dried out I’ve begun to seal and paint it with the idea of turning it into living quarters and the first floor being storage, kitchen and utilities. I’ve moved an outdoor shower way up the to do list after my last week spent out there. After about five days of no shower even the boy doesn’t want to get near me so I better start work ASAP.
This is a pic from the second floor balcony looking west. The track in the upper right hand is a shooting lane which will be widened with a feeder at the end. The track is a little over 100 yards long and about 8 feet wide. As you can tell I’m now able to park my truck next to the shack which really helps when unloading. On the left are some older burn areas. For some reason living in a wooden shack in the swamp surrounded by highly flammable brush has made me paranoid about fire. In this pic you’re looking south toward the swamp. The track is only about 30 yards long and currently ends at a woodpile I just don’t feel like crossing right now. I want to cut all the way to the swamp then widen the track so I have a water view from the second floor. The swamp may be anywhere from 10 feet to 200 yards past the end of the track. You can see more burn areas and remnants of logs. At first I was thinking that there were dozens of rotten logs about. Now I believe it’s hundreds.
Bugs are out in full force. So much so I’ve put up flypaper. The first day the count was one fly and one gnat so I’m not really optimistic about how well it’s going to work. Everything out here seems to bite, sting or burrow. Bumble bees are a real nuisance. They are aggressive and like to challenge you. They also burrow in wood which for someone living in a wooden shanty is a mortal sin. I’ve found a shot shell in a 22 magnum revolver will reduce them to a vaporous cloud so I’ve ordered more shot shells. The only thing that hasn’t bit, stung or tried to enter some orifice is butterflies but I think they may be just working on their strategy. I’m keeping a close eye on them just in case.
Back at the trailer my little greenhouse is starting to pay off. The brown pots on the left are trifoliate orange that are going gang busters. The green pots on the ground are five pecan trees that made it through the winter. The Wendys cups are oak trees from acorns I just pulled up and stuck in a glass. Behind them are several lemon eucalyptus ready to be planted. The seed tray underneath has about 20 rainbow eucalyptus, a few bamboo, and some more trifoliate orange.
Well, CenturyLink really sux tonight so I’m not going to be able to upload any more pics. I’m going to publish this before it freaks out and I lose everything. As usual, my back hurts, my feet stink and I’m dead broke. But hell I’m living the dream. Who wouldn’t want to be me?
Wow! It’s been a long time since my last post and there has been a lot going on.
On two different occasions I’ve spent a week out in shanty town. Mostly it was a fun and rewarding experience with a few “Ah shits”, some “DOH!” and a couple “What in the world am I doing?”
As expected ice is the limiting factor. No ice, no fresh food after a day. No ice, no mixed drink. Both are show stoppers which send me scampering back to town. I have a line on an old propane refrigerator that will partially solve the problem if I can get it to work. An alternative is a small freezer that I power up twice a day at the lowest setting till it shuts off. However for now a week is a good round number to put in before a hot shower and roof that doesn’t leak.
The first week it was pretty cold at night and I kept the propane heater cranked. The second there were two cold nights which was odd since it was in the 80s during the day. Thankfully I had an extra propane bottle so I could cook. I didn’t run the heater all night so I
had to get up several times a night to heat the place up then shut down and go back to sleep. I always knew when it was time to light it off since the boy would be standing next to me nudging me.
When I would wake up he would sit and stare at the heater. After he got over the hissing sound it makes he fell in love with it. I have a wood burning stove out there but need to put down backer board, cut holes for the chimney, put in the chimney and seal the stove. With temps in the 80s mostly I’ll use propane for the occasional cold night and install the stove this summer.
I’ve done a lot of brush clearing. It takes at least three passes to get the brush cleared and managed. First you have to rough cut. This leaves stumps anywhere from a few inches high to about 18 inches. I just zip through waving the cutter and let it fall. Then you have to haul the brush out and burn it. After burning an area you go back and cut out the stumps. At that point you can finally tell how much fill will be needed. In a lot of cases it is further complicated by the dozens of old, rotten logs about. They all have heartwood that is still hard as rock. When you hit one of these with the cutter it goes who knows where so you quickly learn to be balanced and out of the way.
Here’s a view of my front yard. My property runs all the way to the trees in the back and then some. The swamp starts just before the trees. I want to clear all the way to the swamp which is a huge task. The small drum is my burn barrel for plastic, treated wood, left over food and anything else that I don’t want to put in the soil. I burn leftovers so as not to attract unwanted attention from potentially dangerous critters. Like bears. The brush pile is waiting on a slow rainy day with no wind. If you blow up the pic you’ll be able to see some of the logs I’ve mentioned.
This is a view of the side yard. More piles of brush and a couple of partially burned out areas. I fear the small pine tree has a short life expectancy. I’m not sure if I’ll put up an awning or build a screened in porch but it will be to close no matter what I do.
Here is another view of the side yard. On the right you can see a track cut that goes back about 100 yards. I’ll be making it wider and putting in a feeder at the end. I have three more tracks planned with feeders. I don’t know if and when I’ll get around to shooting anything but I’m putting in the ability if I do. The trees in the background are about 1/4 of the way across my property. I’ve still not found a way back so I’ve only seen a small portion of what I bought so far.
This is sort of the back yard. Even when finished it won’t be very big. I’m going back about another 6 or 8 feet clearing then quit. The track is my new driveway and under construction. Once it’s done I’ll clear several feet on either side and put in trifoliate orange, pine trees and blackberries on both sides. If an uninvited guest starts in he will have no choice but to back out unless he can defeat the gate which might prove deadly for him. The sign on the gate will be a skull and crossbones with the caption “You Were Warned.”
Here are some views of the place from the road. That’s the second floor you can see. I believe once I get it skinned and painted that it’s going to be very hard to notice. I have bamboo planted between it and the parking area which will further help shield it from curious eyes. The bamboo I’ve planted is several species and grows anywhere from 25 feet to about 70. I’m also planning on putting some tree limbs off the side with Spanish Moss to hide it even more. The parking area will be blocked off and planted soon. I’ll put another gate behind some foliage back where the pine tree is just in case I need it. All the brush along the road will eventually be cleared and replaced with blackberries, trifoliate orange and any other nasty plant I can find. I want it very evident that if I don’t know you or you weren’t invited that pulling up to the drive, getting out with hands in plain sight and shouting “Hello” until I respond is the wisest course of action. There have been shootings out here over the years and I don’t intend to become the victim of some hot headed road hunter.
While I was visiting another camp the other day a guy was out checking game cameras. We were in a nice cleared area with several buildings, grass, generator running etc. We heard a shot and looked over to see what was up. He was only about 50 feet from us at the time. When he came back he had this in the back of his ATV. That’s about a four foot copperhead or cottonmouth. I was never sure which. What freaked me was that it was in among all that activity and not out doing other snakeazoid type things. I didn’t hesitate once I got back to the shack. I put on snake boots, rigged up a snake gun and put up with the discomfort of carrying two guns for the duration. Anyone who plans on visiting needs to think about this and come equipped. I have the guns but only one set of boots an’ I’m using them.
That’s about it for now. I’m headed out tomorrow to finish up some small stuff on the roof, get a door on the second floor and maybe get the driveway finished. Then I need to paint, seal and organize. My plans change on an hourly basis and sometimes a minute by minute. But even when I’m sitting on the front porch, bone dead tired and stinking like a pig I feel good because I’m living the dream.
Things are really starting to come together on the shanty with the roof now mostly, all the walls up, windows all in. Of course there are still a gazillion finishing touches left to be touched but for the most part the shack is basically dried in. The daylight in the center of this pic is where I need to cut an 8 inch wide strip of plywood to finish the wall. There are other areas that the plywood is only held on with a kiss and a promise and needs nailing down. Then there is caulking about another gazillion joints which leak light and cold air early in the morning. Not that cold air will be an issue much longer since it was in the 80s today.
Over the past few days I’ve been framing in the front while Randy did the roof. I’m continually amazed at how fast and precise his work is even though he knows this is just a shack in the swamp. For every four pieces of wood I cut and put in at least two are wrong, often requiring heavy grunting to overcome the nails I so joyfully put in. Randy just looks at things, waves a tape measure around, mutters something to himself, then presto, the roof is done. It took me two hours and three tries to put
in three pieces of wood for a hand rail on the balcony. But dam am I having fun.
As I’ve said, I have a punch list several miles long before even the basic structure can be called done not to mention outfitting it. But now I can relax a bit and smell the tequila.
Tomorrow is a day for hotel load. I have to do laundry. Has anyone been to a coin laundry lately? It’s scary. I usually get it started then sit outside with the boy. This will generate a dead zone about twice the length of his leash that no one seems to want to enter.
Then it will be off to the storage war. I have another endless list of stuff to find in my storage units which will make my life luxurious and wholesome. OK. It will make things better but I can wish.
Sunday I might have a tourist who wants to turkey hunt out there. After the grand property tour I’m gonna put his butt to work hauling brush while I cut it down. Hey, it’s a 23 mile walk back to town.
Monday I’ll load up and head out for a week. I wonder if the temptation to sit in the shade and doze will overcome my desire to hang a door on the second floor.
We made decent progress this week by getting the second
floor walls up, windows in and started framing the roof. I have to admit to having an irrational fear of heights so I was very uncomfortable working hanging off the side of the building by one hand while nailing on plywood. There are still areas that need to be nailed and screwed down but that will be done from an extension ladder. Randy had other pursuits so we wrapped up Wednesday then headed back to town. I spent Thursday sleeping, crawling through my storage and buying material. Friday morning I headed back out with a truck load of supplies and 60 pounds of ice to spend several days.
The first order of business was to try to introduce some order into the chaos which results from two very exhausted people just tossing stuff at the end of the day. Heh, what a dreamer. By dark I had one side of the shack cleared out with the first coat of paint mostly. By then it was to late and to dark to cook so my Friday rations consisted of two Nutty Buddy bars washed down with two large vodkas. The white paint did wonders for the light level but it was still rather dark for my taste.
Part of the darkness came from my kerosene lamp which puts out a lot of light. When it’s working. I had it cranked up and was enjoying it for both the light and heat when it went TINK! What the hell? I thought. Then it started putting out clouds of thick black smoke. A close look revealed that a tear drop shaped piece of glass had just decided to fall out of the glass chimney thing so it was burning like mad. I blew it out while cussing the fact that I didn’t have a replacement.
Resigned to the fact that I was going to have a dark corner I set up my propane heater. No sir, no more Ziggster pupcicles tonight! Then I realized I had a 20 pound bottle of propane inside a wooden shack with candles and a Coleman lantern burning. So I cranked the heat all the way up, started shedding clothes and stared at it for two hours until I began sweating. I figured I had the shack pretty well sealed so it should hold the heat for a few hours especially with the candles and lantern. I woke up about 3 am and it was cold as in every joint was screaming cold. So back in came the heater and I stared at it until about 4 at which time it went back out and I laid on another sleeping bag. I woke up about 7 when I noticed the sun coming through the window had heated my toes enough that I was getting some feeling back in them.
After I put on a pot of coffee I looked around and realized I could see daylight coming in from every direction and angle. So much for the sealing I did the day before. I set about
sealing out daylight with a passion and painting like mad. When I was done I decided that my kitchen needed some work and set about remodeling it.
The next day was spent mowing my front yard. I use a giant sized Stihl brush cutter and have to stop frequently to clear the brush when mowing. After a few hours I was worn out but much happier with the view from my front porch. It gets pretty old sitting there staring at the same old brush about 15 feet away which never seems to do anything interesting. Now I can stare at brush as far as 200 feet away which never seems to do anything interesting. Well, my front yard goes all the way to the trees in the back of the pic so something interesting is bound to surface. Anyway, I was tired and hungry since I had forgot to eat the day before. (is vodka eating?)
So I set up the gas grill and set the wood chips to soaking. I had visions of a slow grilled T bone, baked potato and corn on the cob. So of course the gas hose for the grill had a leak in it. Cooking a steak on a griddle on a Coleman stove should be a felony but as hungry as I was it was delicious.
Then it was time to get ready for dark and the sub zero arctic conditions which I knew were fast approaching. I had knocked over the gas lantern the night before and needed to replace the wicks which was an easy task. Then I lit it. Holy crap it turned into a ball of flame. There were flames coming from every joint in it which gave me visions of an explosion turning me and the Zigster into crispy critters. So I threw it onto my freshly manicured front yard. It went out. Thinking it was a trap I shut the boy up inside and stared at it for about an hour. Finally I went over and poked it with a stick. Dead. So I stared at it some more then poked it some more. Dead. I’m just not having much luck with flaming devices designed to give off massive quantities of light.
Compared to my first trial run this wasn’t near as miserable. I’ll dig the solar panel, deep cycle battery and electronics out of storage to solve the lighting problem. A new hose will fix the gas grill. I have a wood burning stove so I just need to put in a chimney for heat with the added benefit of some cooking capability. I had an air pump which worked well on the air mattress but I still had to deal with rolling out of it onto the floor then standing up. Some 5 gallon buckets and a piece of plywood will handle that. I easily have enough buckets full of beans, rice, flour, etc. to make a platform.
I’m hoping to get the shack dried in this week then want to try a full week out there. At that point keeping food cold and mixing vodka will become the problem. Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for, you just may get it. I got it.
And I’m loving every minute.
“I’m not going to tell you again, STEP AWAY FROM THE TRUCK!“
Things started well after the weekend off so about Tuesday we felt like we were really cruising by the end of the day. Then I noticed that I had no brakes on my truck which was exciting. So I spent Wednesday at the mechanic getting a caliper replaced that was surely made out of some precious metal. But hey, you need brakes so what was I to do?
Thursday morning we set off with the truck heavily loaded with pressure treated lumber and firewood. We got there and worked all day without incident so we were once again in high spirits by the end of the day.
The second floor porch deck was done, the roof partially framed, some rails up, etc. I wanted to cut some more firewood to haul out the next morning so we left a little early enjoying the short work day.
Then Murphy came a’ calling. I got to close to the edge of the road which seemed to somehow offend the road so it collapsed. At which point I became highly offended and began to describe the situation in the wonderfully rich and colorful manner employed by submarine sailors the world over. In a nutshell, the situation sucked.
Four hours, two broken tow straps, another tree pulled out of the ground, and $300 dollars later I meekly followed the tow truck out. If you are wondering, the front tire really is off the ground. The passenger side wheel wasn’t touching ground either since it was suspended above a very deep ditch. As I was pulling into the camp ground I’m living at I noticed an odd noise coming from the front end which only further deepened my funk.
The next morning I washed about 200 pounds of mud, roots, grass and other swamp debris out of the front end. This seemed to have fixed the problem but I’m not making any bets.
We did a long week end then hit it hard yesterday and today. Made a lot of progress while keeping an eye out for Murphy. The second floor back wall is mostly in (6″ gap to fill), one sheet on both sides, windows framed, 2×12 header up and more roof framed. Our plan is to finish the side walls, frame most of the roof and maybe get some of the plywood on the roof tomorrow. I’m keeping binoculars and an AR handy in case I see that Murphy guy.
“I’m guarding it. What does it look like I’m doing?”
Gosh what a week. Has it been a week? It’s been a week somewhere I’m sure.
We pretty much got the first floor dried in late Friday afternoon. Randy decided to take a couple of days off so I made plans to spend the weekend at the property. I spend Saturday morning getting everything together I figured I needed and boldly set off for a new adventure. I spent most of Saturday afternoon getting settled then along about dark things began to go south.
I was unable to find my gas grill in storage but wasn’t concerned since I had a brand new Coleman stove. Well, you don’t just toss a steak in a Coleman stove and cook it. You need a skillet or some such device. I didn’t have one. Two pop tarts, a pack of peanut butter crackers and a Busch beer doesn’t sound exciting unless your stomach is on dead empty.
I remember when I was a kid that Coleman lanterns were extremely bright. I’m sure that they are still so but my eyes kept telling me otherwise. Candles did help but I was left longing for my deep cycle battery, solar panel and led lights somewhere in storage.
Then I broke out the air mattress only to discover that it requires some kind of special fitting to blow it up. No problem says I, I have an air compressor. Nope. Bicycle pump. Nope. Shop vac. Nope. Dammit.
Which led to me setting up the cot. An experience I hope to never have again. Thirty minutes later the cot is finally sitting there and it’s getting cold. As in really cold. You would think that a Coleman lantern and a bunch of candles would keep the chill off a 12×12 room that was reasonably air tight. Nope.
I had a propane heater that comes with all kinds of dire warning about what happens when you use it indoors. I was worried enough that I decided not to fire it up until I had the carbon monoxide
detector working. Of course I couldn’t find the detector. Did I mention it was very cold that night?
So Ziggy and I settled in for what we both hoped would be a restful night. At first I tried to put Ziggy in a sleeping bag. He seemed interested until I started to zip it part way up around him. Suddenly he screamed “It’s a trap!”, bolted for the door which was shut and latched then refused to come near the sleeping bag again.
So I ended up in a sleeping bag on the cot while he slept on the only blanket I had brought on the floor. By 4 am it was cold as hell so all the good intentions regarding the carbon monoxide detector went out the window and I lit off the propane heater.
The cot itself was an experience. It was hard as a brick.
By Sunday afternoon I was getting fairly hungry but couldn’t face another freeze dried meal. I don’t know who writes the online reviews for those things but if that is “some good eating” to them they really need cooking classes. Then it struck me, pallets are made of untreated hardwood. An hour later I had two steaks sizzling over a nice bed of coals. Ziggy doesn’t get human food all that often but he agreed that it was the best steak he had ever had. I didn’t bother to tell him he had never had one before but hey, it was a celebration of sorts.
Monday morning I was up before the 5 am alarm, had two cups of decent coffee and set to work. Got some bamboo planted, did a bunch of clean up and set about getting material sorted. By 1 pm the rain clouds were rolling in so I headed back to town with a two page list to bring next time.