Posted tagged ‘mud season’

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March 8, 2021

The weather promised to be nice for early March (and it delivered) so my wife and I made a dash out to the woods on Saturday with not much more on the agenda than to relax and eat burgers. (The “relax” part meant leaving the dogs at home. Queequeg usually hides under the truck and won’t come when called unless there’s a treat involved, and Flike generally cowers in some corner of the cabin, fearful of gunfire, unless there’s a hike involved. After about an hour, both are sitting eagerly by the truck, ready to drive home.)

Although we didn’t have an agenda, I did hope to meet a man who could do some work on my road through the trees. It’s coming to be “mud season” in the Ozarks (something Sue Hubbell wrote about with suitable expletives), and there are spots in the 3/4 miles of my road that are already torn up from driving on. So either I get the road fixed now or I have to wait until the hot, dry summer to have it done. Mostly I need some ditches dug out, a culvert pipe set in one especially wet place, and then three-inch gravel spread over the top of it all.

So I had contacted a man to meet me on Saturday to look at my road and tell me what he could do about it. We agreed to meet at 10:00, and he showed up at 11:00, but then he got down to business. We drove on the road, stopped and got out at a few places, discussed what was wrong and what could be fixed, never really discussed pricing, and then agreed to get the job done. I’m trusting that the man knows what he’s doing — he is highly recommended and he built my neighbor’s airstrip; have I told you about the airstrip? — since he only seemed to listen to three of every ten words I spoke during our inspection. I think he looked at the situation, brought to bear his considerable knowledge, and only half listened to my speculations. He’s going to do the work in pieces, in part so he can be sure I’m satisfied with it before he does more, but I suspect he thinks I’m not confident about wanting to have such a big job done. The budget’s there, the will is there, but I don’t think I got that across to him. (That may have been in the seven words of each ten that I don’t think he listened to.) The problem I see with doing the work in pieces is that he’s going to have to haul his big equipment out several times, and though his work compound is less then ten miles away from my woods, the last two miles are a bit tortuous for pulling heavy equipment across. But he’s the builder, so I’m trusting to him.

Before he left, he wanted to see our little cabin. He admired the setting, which is something I’ve heard consistently from visitors. The road man spoke of recently selling his 4,000-square foot home in town and how much of a profit he made on it, so I suspect he knows about nice settings, and I take his unbidden words as sincere. (If I could just get the critters to stop eating the door frame!)

After he left, my wife and I hiked across the dam and I showed her the area where the beaver have been busy. She has been nervous about this new presence on the land, fearing that they’re going to denude our forest. (It doesn’t help that they’ve gone for white oaks rather than cedars.) In the week I’d been away, they’d brought down another tree, which has fallen into the lake, and are nine-tenths along with a fourth tree. When I peered over the edge of the muddy “cliff” where this construction work is being done, I could see an underwater path dug out of the mud, disappearing into the cliffside. I’m pretty sure that’s their den entrance. (I color enhanced the photo below to increase the contrast.) It’s directly across the lake from the cabin, so my hope is that in the coming days, when we sit in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling water, we’ll see the beavers swimming in the lake, busy with their beaver business. They will bear watching to ensure they don’t overwhelm the resource, though I don’t know what I can do about them if they do.

After this it was lunch time, and I started a fire (technically it was a two-match fire since the first match I struck flared up and then promptly went out) and let the wood burn down to coals to cook over. We had burgers on pretzel buns. (On the long list of things I can be grateful for in my marriage, the introduction of good buns is one of them. In my misinformed youth I ate generic, white-bread buns that tasted like sawdust. My wife insisted first on Kaiser rolls and now likes pretzel buns. I don’t know how I got along before this enlightenment.) The titmice and nuthatches were busy at the feeder, and far, far above three Bald Eagles circled in the sky. There were no bugs to speak of yet. The temperature reached 70 degrees by early afternoon, which was nice for March, and it seemed that sitting still in the chairs around the fire was the best use of our time.

And so we did this, watching the coals burn down to ash, half thinking about other chores we might undertake and then mirthfully dismissing them. We talked occasionally. Other times we reveled in the companionable silence. I eventually rose to move a stack of bricks near the road closer to the cabin. When the construction work reaches this far, the bricks might have been in the way of the big machines. I pushed the broom around the inside of the cabin a little. I packed my gear for the trip home, and then it was time to leave.

The weather doesn’t look favorable for another trip this coming weekend (nor for beginning the road work), so I’m glad I got this visit in when I could.