Clearing, and Clearing, and Building

I bought a Stihl FS 560 C M brush cutter and does it ever cut brush! I am able to cut more brush in four hours than two of us were able to100_1375 do in several days. It also does an excellent job of mulching which reduces the growth of brush piles.

To the left in this picture you can see a path which is nearly wide enough to get my truck through. I have to widen another path which connects to it then I will be able to drive about 1/4 of the way across the property. To the right is a fire pit we dug that is ready for a match when the weather is right.

The paths I’m cutting are quickly turning into a maze back there. A lost of them wander on for a bit then abruptly end. Others just wander then connects somewhere to another path. I’ve got an idea of laying out some GPS points and cutting a twisty path just wide enough to get through the brush where I’ve not been yet. Then go back and cut a bunch of dead ends and loops. Total waste of time but fun.

Last time out I planted seven mulberry tree rooted cuttings. I should have potted them then planted next spring but they had been sitting on the kitchen counter for nearly a week and I felt I should at least100_1376 get them in the ground to give them a chance. If the hogs don’t trample then and they survive the winter they should be growing fast next year.

I have five lemon eucalyptus seedlings in pots which will be planted next spring plus 50+ seeds in a starter tray. I’ve read that they are notoriously hard to start from seed so it will be interesting to see how many, if any, actually sprout. The seedlings seem to be doing well since all five have put out sprouts after being moved to larger pots.

I have two 12 inch tall trifoliate orange in new pots. One has put out sprouts, the other just sits there looking ugly and thorny. I put about 30 seed in the fridge today for stratification which takes a month. I have another 100 seed ready for stratification and am planning on doing about 20 a week for several weeks. I hope by next spring to be able to plant several a week to get my living privacy fence underway.

100_1381
Ziggy the wonder dog inspects the future Taj McIshimo.

Last trip out I laid out a 12×12 two story pole barn shed with plans to start construction early next week. Though I’ve watched dozens of building being laid out at construction sites it took a lot longer to do it myself than I expected. However I kept moving stakes and measuring and finally ended up with a square layout. The ground I’m building on is slightly sloped and will aid in drainage since I’m building the floor about a foot and a half off the ground.  I’ll put several inches of gravel underneath before the floor goes in then mound gravel around the outside perimeter. I’m mounding it to help stop wind from getting underneath as well as for drainage.

The second floor of the shed will consist of a 6×12 room and a 6×12 covered porch. With any luck I’ll be able to sit outside in the morning, sip coffee and shoot miss piggy while listening to Enigma.

So that’s the current plan subject to change on a whim. I still need to figure out how to get across the swamp, get to the back of the property, drain the swamp, fix the road and cure world hunger. OK You caught me. I don’t really care about world hunger but I do need to get a raised bed garden going.

You Can’t Get There From Here

Time moves on and I continue exploring my new home site to be. A few days ago I completed exploring the accessible part of the new property then came to the conclusion, you can’t get there from here.

It seems that the entire southern border of the property is swamp/marsh. There’s more exploring to be done there, there may be some part of it not underwater but that’s a battle for another day. So I continued onward to the west thinking I could get to the back of the property with relatively dry feet.

OK, that’s a pipe dream. There is a band of swamp/marsh running north to south blocking the back. I spent the better part of a day looking at Google earth before realizing that I was unable to get to nearly 3/4 of my property. I decided that was unacceptable and went out and bought some high rubber boots.

The next day I began probing the swamp band running north to south with the idea of finding a passage west. After several hours I was able to find a path which didn’t overwhelm my knee high boots and found myself in a thick growth of pine and cypress with gradually rising ground. The undergrowth also thinned considerably so I found myself making decent progress.

After a few hours I decided that it was time to head out and start the hour and a half drive back to town. Since missing the path back and getting lost is a very real possibility I wanted to give myself some extra time to do a compass check and cut a new path if necessary.

Once I was home that evening I plotted the GPS points and was gratified to learn that I had trekked a little over 1/3 of the way across. It appears that I have about another 400 feet to cover then I will hit a narrow band of swamp/marsh before starting up the elusive hill. If the weather hold and there’s not much rain the swamp/marsh might not be much of a barrier.

Navigating the swamp is challenging. Besides not wanting to get covered in muck there is the danger of water moccasins, gators and quicksand. Quicksand is very rare here but I’ve used up all the luck in my life so I try to err on the side of caution. It’s also very tiring. Ankle deep water quickly becomes 8 inches deep muck when you step in it. Every step becomes a study in don’t lose your balance or you will be face down when the suction breaks.

I did notice that the swamp is down several inches from about two weeks ago. This leads me to believe that there is an outlet somewhere that is draining it. I really doubt that evaporation and plants would be enough to account for this much water loss. It would be great if I could wait until it had dried enough to get a large back hoe in to dig some large holes and a pond.

Last time out I was able to get a lot closer to what appears to be a100_1370 pond of some sort. It appears to be clear which might indicate that it
is spring or creek fed, both of which would be nice for an off grid life style.

A zoomed version of this pic shows that this might be a pond and not just an open portion

Close up of suspected pond.
Close up of suspected pond.

of swamp. The grass is deceptive in that it’s in water knee deep or higher. Hopefully it will dry enough soon that I can get there and find out what this area actually is.

It Is Finally Happening

It’s been a long time since my last post and boy howdy has a lot been happening.

A little over two weeks ago I closed on my house in Sanford and I made the final move to north Florida. The buyer was a long time friend of mine who told me that rather than having some time to vacate the house I would have to be out the day after closing. Chopping a week or so out of my schedule led to some frantic last minute preparations and a multitude of unfinished business. After two weeks I’ve finally started to get things under control and actually have a bit of breathing room.

I spent nearly a week in a motel while searching for a travel trailer on craigslist. Finally I went to a dealer out of sheer frustration thinking that I would let RV professionals take care of me. Man did they ever. They took me to the cleaners and didn’t even kiss me afterward. If you ever have a chance to deal with Camping World in Lake City, don’t. The salesman and business manager took advantage of my trust and ignorance to stick it to me without the benefit of vaseline. After nearly a complete week of lies and subterfuge I ended up with a trailer which I will soon have to begin repairs on. I would have made out better buying a rolling shell and rebuilding.

So now I’m living in a campground about 30 miles from my property. The advertised WiFi runs at a speed approximately half that of a 2400 baud modem but it is very peaceful here and convenient to town and the interstate. Being close to the interstate is fairly important since the nearest WalMart and Lowes is about 35 miles away in another town. Though things have been frantic and rather stressful for the last few weeks, I am loving it here and am looking forward to the coming months.

I’ve been out to the property several times and begun clearing as well as cutting paths. There is a hill at the back that appears to be covered in pine, cypress and hardwoods. I’ve not really had a good look since the underbrush is to dense to navigate without a chain saw. Next week I hope to complete cutting a path to it and hopefully
it will be much easier going once I get into the older growth.

Hidden Stash
Hidden Stash

I left a hidden stash on site a few trips ago to see if anyone would mess with it when I wasn’t there. So far it’s not been disturbed and I’ve expanded it quite a bit. It’s under the camo tarp if you are having trouble picking it out.

100_1326[1]My initial efforts were to clear an area to stage from then start fighting my way toward the elusive hill on the back of the property. There is an area at the front of the property where a logging company chipped logs years ago and was built up slightly as well as not so densely overgrown. After a lot of sweat, cussin’ and chain saw I was able to get the truck in and out but just barely. 100_1327[1]Part of the problem I’m experiencing out here is that my truck doesn’t turn in a 40 acre field and I only have 30 acres. This leads to a lot of 197 point turns.

I’m also trying to not cut any “good” trees such as oak, maple or pine. Eventually I will have to choose a few to euthanize but for the time being I’m willing to work around them.

Entrance
Entrance

On a couple of occasions I’ve missed the turn into my property. It isn’t at all hard to do since in a weeks time the plants will regenerate and seem to thrive on Roundup. I’ve been told that the underbrush is to dense for a bush hog so obviously this isn’t going to be an easy effort.

Burning came to mind but then I had a flash of poor Bambi trying to help her aging mother get to the swamp with a broken wheel chair and immediately discarded that idea. Then in a stroke of pure genius100_1356 I asked a friend I know in town for help and he came out with some giant industrial gonzo mower. I’m expecting a Christmas card from Bambi this year. We’re placing Miss Piggy on the endangered hog list though.

100_1357Now I’m able to get in and out with only a 36 point turn but it’s still a lot better than before. Once we get enough cleared we’ll be opening up a turn around but until I see more of the property I’m not going scorched earth yet.

In this picture you can see an area we’ve cut out for a fire pit. I was a bit skeptical at first but it was 34 degrees when I woke up this 100_1360morning and had I been on site I would have been going “Fire pit! Hell yeah!” I have plans for a picnic table under the pines center and left. It’s also the entrance to the path we’re cutting to the back of the property.

Cutting this much underbrush produces tremendous amounts of cut brush. Although this should be intuitively obvious it’s not until you
start getting a few piles of brush about 6 feet high, 8 feet across and 20 feet long that you fully realize this. I know you’re thinking “Fire pit! Hell yeah!” but I still have to clear some more around it so Bambi doesn’t go sending DCF after me.

100_1361The path to the back is slow going. Randy started one his first day out which I continued next time while he was mowing. His path looks like a super highway and is nice and straight. Mine looks like a drunk came through with a chainsaw attacking pink elephants at random. Hoping to speed things up a bit I’m following game trails as long as they are generally going in the direction I want100_1355 to go. This has led to several dead ends as I run into swamp along the southern end of the property. I’ve spent a lot of time back tracking and checking a compass.

Today I made a major breakthrough. I was following a game trail heading roughly west when I came to a rather large open area. It was pure swamp to the south but I could see open water which might 100_1348indicate a spring or creek. Good chance that it could be turned into a fish pond at some point. After it gets cold enough to put the snakes in a coma I’ll have to explore it with hip waders and a life guard. 100_1350The really nice part is that to the north and west it was fairly open and I was able to cover about 50 feet in a very short time.

Needless to say I was excited and shot a few GPS shots to track my progress once I got home. Google Earth didn’t hesitate to shoot me down though when I did a measurement and realized that I’ve covered about 325 feet so far. Oh well, only 1500 feet to go.

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Working on Site

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Things are kind of hectic right now but I hope for some time this weekend to work on the blog. I would like to add a picture gallery and some other goodies but time is precious right now. I appreciate people signing up and hopefully will soon have comments in place along with some other goodies.

On the new home to be front, the engine in my truck is blown and has to be replaced. Ouch. So far the start date is tomorrow, Friday and a promise of a healthy truck sometime early next week. When it rains it pours huh?

Is This The Beginning?

A little over a week ago I closed on 30 acres in north Florida. The land is down 20 miles of one lane mud track and you don’t get there without a fairly robust 4wd. As it is I managed to get stuck twice to the point that I had to use the winch to get out and stopped once to winch out a stuck fellow traveler in a 4wd F150. In two days I saw a total of two people. One was the driver of the F150 the other was a nice fellow that drove by on an ATV while I was checking maps and GPS.

After a couple of hours of wandering around and getting stuck I finally found my land. Yes, I bought it sight unseen. Still I’m happy with it.

My Google Earth printouts were helpful in a way but really didn’t reflect life on the ground. Where it showed wide sand roads I was driving on tracks overgrown with vegetation and in some cases the road was so overgrown that you just powered through and hoped that you didn’t drive into a swamp.

My road looking north.
My road looking north.

This is the road on my property looking North. My property line runs down the right side. This was taken before the afternoon thunderstorm.

Road looking south.
Road looking south.

The road south isn’t much different and yes, it’s as narrow as it looks. Note the puddle in the lower right hand corner. It grew to about 5 times that size after the rain.

After finding what looked like a good place to park I backed the Suburban in and unloaded a bit. My idea was to work at clearing a bit and camping for the night. Boy howdie was I misguided.

I started out well enough about 11 in the morning. By 12:30 I was starting to feel the heat and decided to put up a tarp. By the time I had it up it was nasty hot and I was sweating quarts. Then I became slightly dizzy and nauseous. I settled down under the tarp and sat for three house guzzling ice water and wondering if I had brought enough.

Looks like a good place to camp.
Looks like a good place to camp.

After about 3 hours of relentless sun the heat finally started to break. At one point I had stood up, brushed the tarp with my head and it felt like I had a hot iron stuck on my head. Note to self, net time use two tarps one under the other.

At 4 pm the thunderstorm hit and the boy and I were in the truck, windows cracked and dozing off. At 4:45 the slow steady rain came and we slept till 5:30. At 5:35 I stepped out of the truck into 6 inches of water. Maybe the swamp I had parked next to should have clued me in ya think?

Swamp about 10 feet from where I parked.
Swamp about 10 feet from where I parked.

So, the boy and I went exploring. Imagine my surprise when I found a high dry area about 100 feet away. Quick like a bunny I was back to the truck and loading up. Fortunately I didn’t need to use the winch to get out.

By the time I relocated and set up camp, it was dark. Not much of a day of exploring all in all. Sitting by the fire I had plenty of time to go over all the mistakes I had made getting ready for this day. Though the list was long it was nothing compared to the incredibly miserable night I had ahead of me.

I had brought a couple of the foam pads used for ground cover when camping. Should be good for sleeping in the back of a Suburban, right? Right? Wrong! Those things compress down to paper thin and you feel nothing but unyielding steel under you. I didn’t bring a pillow so I used a couple of rolls of paper towels. Wonder why they call them rolls? Because every time you move your head they roll somewhere. After searching for them about 40 times I gave up. Oh, I didn’t bring a blanket. It’s Florida for Petes sake. You don’t need a blanket do you? Yes you do. A plastic tarp will work as sort of a blanket. But don’t expect it to keep you to warm.

I would like to say that the next morning I was up early and full of energy just raring to go. I rolled out sore, tired, and totally groggy. Getting the fires restarted helped, coffee helped, still I was tired. After a bit I was ready and get in about an hour of exploring before the sun started to heat up. After the day before I decided to pack it up and head out.

Daddy can we go home now?
Daddy can we go home now?

I asked the boy his opinion. He was ready for a Holiday Inn.

And Keeps Beginning

Two steps forward and one step back.

As with all plans, nothing is ever set in concrete. My plan was to drive a U Haul truck to closing and pull my 4wd Suburban behind it. U Haul quickly shot that down when they let me know in no uncertain terms that they had no trailer capable of hauling the beast. As if by magic my To Do list grew yet again and my Done list shrunk yet again.

Next week will be hectic to say the least.

And So It Begins

After several years of wishing and hoping, I’ve finally found some land in north Florida and will soon be leaving city living behind. By leaving behind I mean the land I’m moving to currently has no water, electricity, sewer or shelter. With winter approaching I am feeling the pressure to get started and just learned that closing has been delayed once more.

The delay doesn’t at all surprise me since it’s been anything but smooth sailing so far. A few months ago I had found what I thought to be the perfect piece of land. After a very short contact with the realtor representing the seller I returned home and turned over everything to my realtor to complete the buy. At that point the realtor for the seller became the bipolar realtor from hell and needless to say, the deal died a sudden death.

I then located more vacant land and scheduled another road trip. All of this land is located about four hours from where I live now which isn’t terribly bad but requires a bit of planning since I have to negotiate some major traffic jams to get there. However, the trip went smoothly and I returned home ready to make an offer on another piece of land.

This time the offer was well received but it was on the wrong piece of land. Fortunately the sellers rep was very helpful and I set out once again. After turning off the paved road I quickly learned that a road which was easily driven the week before could be entirely different to navigate a few days later.

Once a mere mud puddle, I suddenly found myself in a mud lake.
Once a mere mud puddle, I suddenly found myself stuck in a mud lake.

You can’t imagine how relieved I was to discover that there was about four square feet I could stand in and get a cell phone signal. Slightly more than three hours later I was out of the mud lake, the tow truck driver was a bit more solvent and I was faced with whether to try to continue or abort. I turned tail and headed back to town.

So here I am, waiting to close on a piece of land I’ve not actually seen, wondering if I’ll be able to even get my cargo containers delivered once I do close and waiting on my mechanic to call and tell me that he’s completed the last minute tweaks on my 4wd truck. Yeah, it’s an adventure for sure.

Living the dream.