a day trip to Roundrock

The weather was mild on Sunday for early February in my part of the world, so my wife and I made a trip to our Ozark forest. Because we were at my son’s house the day before, we suggested that grand Emmett join us, which meant spending Saturday night at our house before we embarked for the woods on Sunday morning.

I had notions of using my chainsaw to cut back some of the encroaching trees along our road in — this is the best time of the year for that since there are no leaves to add weight and there are no insects to burrow into my skin and leave me itching for a week. However, having young Emmett along changed those plans.

So did the appearance of my latest pile of gravel. Through the decade-plus that my cabin has stood in the forest, I have worked with a number of local contractors, trying to get things done. This has not always worked out. Some would appear and do a little work then never appear again. Others would promise to do some work and not show. Other would simply ignore my voice mails and texts. Getting my spillway repaired was a multi-year project with several contractors, each of whom said the guy before “did it all wrong.” I suspect that the jobs I had for these men were simply too small for them.

It happened that the man who built my cabin had become a friend on social media. He had taken a job as an over-the-road trucker but then announced that he was doing excavation and hauling work locally (due to his wish to be closer to his family). When I saw his new career, and remembering the excellent work he did on my cabin, I contacted him about getting some gravel delivered. And since he seemed eager for the work, I showed him a muddy area along my road as well as what may have been the true cause of my spillway washing out: all of the water racing down the quarter mile of road leading to the cabin. He laid a pipe under the road in the muddy area and then spread gravel over it. And he dug three trenches into the woods to bleed water from the roadside ditch that was sending torrents to wash out my spillway. Plus he delivered a three-ton pile of gravel.

In the months that followed, I spread those three tons around the cabin (to maintain a firebreak and to keep the scrub from growing there). I used a shovel and wheelbarrow (also a reluctant back). And so I asked him for a new load of gravel. Then the weather turned bitterly cold and the holidays came and whatever else, and the gravel pile didn’t appear.

Last week, though, an invoice came for the gravel. It was twice the price I had paid for the last load, but since I was dependent on his machines, and since the local quarry closed so getting rock meant going farther, and since fuel prices have been fluctuating, I resigned myself to the seemingly higher cost.

But when we got to the cabin on Sunday, you see the pile of gravel that was waiting for us. (Boy for scale). That was much bigger than any pile I’ve had delivered in the past. (My reluctant back is already mumbling complaints.) Emmett had a wonderful day climbing up the mountain and then sliding down it. Playing with his cars, burying them and unearthing them. He was covered with a gray dust by the end of the day. I thought about shifting some of that gravel into the area where I want to expand the firebreak, but somehow sitting in a comfy chair in the sunlight won the day.

The warm day in the woods came to an end, and the only work done on the gravel pile was what Emmett and his cars did. I wrote to the man who delivered it, asking him how much he brought in. It turns out he’d dropped 15 tons of gravel this time. If my math is correct, the price doubled but the volume went up by a factor of five.

Now I need to begin spreading the gravel. I want to expand the firebreak around the back of the cabin (the direction where a potential ground fire would likely come). The area that I could cover is about equal to the area already covered on the other side of the cabin (and the first layer of that was spread by heavy machines). I’m going to focus my initial effort on the gravel that has engulfed the tree. I don’t know if that is bad for the tree, but if you look at it closely you can see what looks like space between the gravel and the trunk. (Click to embiggen.) That is because we wrapped the tree in chickenwire, so the gravel is “held back” from the trunk. Libby says that this has made it easier for the beavers to chew on the tree above the chickenwire, so it’s my priority to shift that part of the pile.

Lots of work, but that’s why I go to the woods.

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