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Not dead yet...

Well, it has been so long since I last posted here that my friends page has shrunk to nearly nothing -- less than one page! -- whether because I have been dropped from their lists, or they, too, have not been posting.  It has been over a year since I last posted here, and I mean to change that.  We are still struggling to build Haven, and there is much to share, and things I fear sharing.   So, I will be writing more posts that are to friends only, even if they are few.  If you wish to be numbered among my LJ "friends", please let me know!

I need not only to resume my SeekingHaven blog posts, but also to do more personal journaling, so, as a way to encourage both, I will be doing NaNoWriMo ("National Novel Writing Month") this November.  My "novel" will be my personal journals (written in third person as a sort of "memoir" -- I can call it "semi-fictionalized" if I want to!) and my Seeking Haven blog posts.  Starting gun goes off at 12:01am November 1st, and the goal is 50,000 words by 11:59pm November 30th -- as far as official NaNoWriMo rules are concerned.  My goal is to do some writing I need to do, and hopefully to build in the habit rather better.

And certainly, to resume posting in my Seeking Haven blog.

So, until Friday...!
-- Dorothy

A Winter Storm (written 2/29/12)

It is Leap Year Day, February 29th of 2012, and heavy snow has been falling here at the Shire (Scott's and Shannon's new home and land.) 

I'm here alone.  Everyone else made it in to work, probably leaving before the snow started, although I don't know that for sure.  Since I woke and saw the heavy snowfall, I've been going out every 30 to 60 minutes to knock and scrape snow off of the rabbit canopy and the smithy tent.  I've been successful in keeping the snow loads down so far, and don't expect any problems there. 

In between my outdoor snow chores, I've come inside the shop and built and tended a fire in the woodstove and turned on the crockpot, adding to the stew therein.  The power has gone off and immediately come on again twice so far, necessitating re-setting the dehumidifier, among other things, but so far that's pretty good.  Tea keeps warm and bread toasts pretty well atop the hot woodstove. 

I cannot get online; our wireless modem was iffy in this area at best, and has now quit working altogether.  Driving is not a good idea -- there's 4" of snow in the driveway, and I'm needed here anyway.  Our cell phones mostly don't work inside the shop, so since I must go outside into the storm to use my phone, there will be few calls made today.  I did call our friends Ross and Diane to ask if they would be willing to put Lee up overnight (they live much closer to where he is working), and I called Lee to let him know he has that option.  And I called Scott and Shannon to report the status of things here. 

But with limited calls, no internet or email, and no driving, I cannot do many of the important tasks I've been working on. That's ok.  I have a very long list of important tasks to do, well more than I've been able to get to.  As long as the power holds out here, I can work on two important tasks that I've had to postpone too long:  photographing more of my jewelry for listing on Etsy, and writing another Seeking Haven blog entry.  I won't be able to post either photos or blog until later, when I have internet access, but that's ok. 

A good part of me likes having the performance of the "have-to's" of our lives interrupted by the forces of nature.  It's a good reminder.  A more reasonable and realistic perspective is gained when the oh-so-important-business-and- absolutely-gotta-gotta-Gotta-DO!-tasks in our lives just... can't be done.  There are, after all, a lot bigger, more important, more powerful and lasting aspects to life than the things on our lists -- even when the things on our lists are important.

Lee and I are living at the Shire, sharing Scott's and Shannon's land, shop, and home until we have a dwelling of our own at Haven.  I am looking for a second job with which to pay for the grading and engineering that has been done, and the work that remains to do.  I will also continue to seek financing to pay for these things, but hold out little hope for financing through any of the usual channels. 

Since we sold Berkana House, we no longer own a home to secure a home equity loan (the usual way such work is paid for, I'm told.) 

Almost no financing agency offers loans for bare land anymore.  (A corollary of this is that bare land is almost impossible to sell now, even if we wanted to give up and sell Haven, which we don't.) 

I'm told that no bank, mortgage company, credit union, or similar source will finance any "alternative" building such as a cob or strawbale house.  They demand that there be a general contractor who meets their approval, and plans for a mainstream (think stick-built or brick) building which also meets their approval before they will consider funding a construction loan.  Such a building would, of course, be far more costly and far less sustainable and environmentally sound than the properly designed and built cob home we have in mind.

Further, even if we were to give up and try for a construction loan to build a mainstream stick-built home, we own too much acreage to meet the required ratio of dwelling size to lot size that loan companies are willing to fund.

In short, the system of financing homes in this country is set up to force building of big, costly, unsustainable homes, and since we don't want that, we're probably out of luck when it comes to getting a loan to finance Haven -- unless we can get creative, and go outside the mainstream financing system.  (More on setting up one's own "shoebox bank" later, as I learn more about this creative people-empowering option.)

Further, the mainstream system of financial agencies is now a system that forces all but those rich in money out of the option of building one's own home  ...unless one can find a way to build a far, far less expensive home on a pay-as-you-go basis. 

Ways to reduce expense:

1. Use your own labor as much as possible -- skilled labor costs are a huge proportion of the cost of construction.  The more construction skills the owners have themselves, and the fewer the project requires, the less expensive it will be.

2. Minimize use of paid contractors. See above.  Use paid contractors only for those things you cannot reasonably do yourself, either for lack of skill, lack of needed equipment, or considerations such as safety. 

3. Minimize use of costly professional consultants such as engineers -- but consult them when they are truly needed.  It is a false economy to build a roof that collapses under the snow load of the first winter.  On the other hand, avoid over-engineering if possible!  For millennia, human beings have been building sound, sustainable homes that have lasted for generations without the aid of engineers -- and with their own hands.  Only in very recent times have we come to assume that home-building is "for the experts", not for us. 

4. Go for smaller, simpler buildings.  Generally, bigger, more complex buildings cost more.

5.  Use sound but inexpensive materials.  Local materials will, in general, be less costly since shipping costs are reduced or eliminated.  Cob and strawbales, roundwood from one's own woodland, are all examples of sound, inexpensive, locally sourced materials. 


Unfortunately, the above-listed strategies for reducing the expense of building a home are often made more difficult or sabotaged outright by the land use and building departments, codes, and regulations in the area where one wishes to build.  Simply having to apply for and (hopefully) obtain a permit to build adds an enormous layer of complexity, delay, and cost to the project.  The codes, regulations, and judgements of the land use and building officials seldom actually serve such laudable goals as environmental protection, health and safety, because they are based largely beliefs, assumptions, processes and technologies that are familiar rather than actually beneficial. 

As an example, onsite septic systems are assumed to be the best mode of sanitation in areas where sewer systems are not available, simply because they are familiar.  In fact, they (and sewer systems) are two of the biggest sources of water pollution in our nation.  Far better systems (graywater reuse and collecting and composting our human excretions) are treated as far more suspect, and too often regulated out of possibility.   

As another example, building department officials most often don't even know what cob is. Buildings have been successfully made of cob for millennia, perhaps more often than any other material, and have not only lasted but still been in use centuries later, in areas that are very wet, very dry, seismically active, seismically inactive, urban, rural, subject to high winds, still, etc.  They endure far better than mainstream stick-built homes, cost much less to make, heat, and cool, and are better for our health and the health of the Earth. They feel better.  Despite these facts and their extensive history, building officials will treat a building proposed to be made of cob as far more "experimental" and suspect, and will be far less likely to permit it than a standard stickbuilt building made of poorer quality materials, that is far less environmentally sound and energy efficient, and is expected to last only a few decades.  If they do permit a cob home, they are likely to require that it be both over-engineered  and outright poorly constructed in ways that result from blindly applying technologies and standards that apply to stick-builts, and can actually reduce the benefits of cob in terms of durability, energy efficiency, and safety.

Am I ranting?  Maybe...

Certainly I have been dismayed and appalled as I have learned more about what actually happens when one tries to build an environmentally sound, sustainable homestead that promotes self-sufficiency and strong community in this country.

Based on our experience so far, both in remodeling Berkana House for sale, and working on Haven, I cannot say that the permitting  and inspections process accrues to the benefit of the people of this country, either in terms of safety, or health, or energy efficiency, or environmental protection.  Rather, the opposite.  We have certainly seen that certain inspectors as individuals care about safety.  Others are little Hitlers, and still others incompetent, arbitrary, and/or misinformed. 

It's enough to make one discouraged, and inclined to avoid the system as much as possible.

Given Haven's original lack of a driveway, and the special process of Marginal Lands designation that allowed it to be approved by the county for a single family dwelling, we have been forced into involvement in the permitting process.  And that process has forced us into far more unnecessary expenses than we would otherwise have had. 

Done is done, but I don't want to be bent over and raped like that again.  Nor do I believe that a home should be so horrendously costly in terms of money, emotional stress, adverse community impact and environmental harm as has become the case in this country.

Its about time to do some reclaiming...


The snow has started to thaw outside.  We'll have soggy messy slush for a while.  Then it will be spring.

'xcuse me.  Gotta go dump slush out of the bunnies.

New Year's Meme: Post titles for 2011


My last post in 2010 was in November, and I didn't post again until my birthday in April of 2011.  2011 has been a hard year, not only for us.  Much of the first half of 2011 felt like being stuck, an inertia finally broken in July, when we got very intentional about clearing the land for grading, with a deadline!  Now, with the driveway in and building pads done, the land is finally ready for us to start building.  We have much to be grateful for.
 
The titles of my blog entries in 2011 sketch bits of the tale of the year:

60...!

A Few Random Updates...

Being on Task...

Destruction in the Service of Creation

Galadriel is Dead

The Clearing of the Grading Areas

The people who shaped Haven's building pads and driveway

The Grading of Haven, Part I: Destruction

Five... er, make that six incisions

(three private entries related to my surgery)

Apologies...

Haven's Grading, Part II: Creation



Haven's Grading, Part II: Creation


To all of our friends, old and new, who helped us to clear the sites at Haven in preparation for grading, thank you! 

To Matt, Randy, and all the others at Pihl Excavating whose skill, professionalism, devotion to the care of the earth, and kind consideration continue to move me, thank you! 

To the engineers whose site design seemed to conserve as much of the natural and monetary resources as the county would let you, our thanks.

I had expected the final result to be structurally sound and functional.  I had not expected it to be beautiful.  I am delighted and amazed. 

Let's go for a tour, shall we?

Here is a view of the entrance to our new driveway in the distance, from Scofield Road northbound:





And a closer look:





The approach is more hidden from the other direction on Scofield, just on the other side of a fairly blind curve -- the way we normally approach Haven: 





From there, the driveway curves gracefully uphill...




.. going between two stands of maple that serve as a gateway to the dwelling site:





From there we can turn to look back downhill between the gateway trees toward Scofield Road (see below).  It was a sunny fall day, and I was wishing for a leaf-blower to get the fallen leaves off the new drive.  I didn't even have a rake with me!




The photo below was taken from the northeast corner of the dwelling pad, facing south.  The entrance of the driveway onto the pad can be seen.  The railroad runs about fifty-plus feet behind the row of trees in the south.   The sacred grounds where we buried Galadriel (from whence I watched the grading), are reached by entering the woods at the far corner of the building pad in the upper left of the picture:




Turning to look behind me, we see the pile of long Maple and Cherry logs we sealed and saved for possible roundwood construction purposes (below):




Turning back, we see below the view from the same northeast corner vantage point, across the dwelling pad toward the far southwest corner.  Our van is parked on the "hammerhead" turn-around, sufficient to allow access and turning by the large fire trucks, in case we ever have a fire.  You can see the driveway as it goes westward through the dwelling pad toward the pad for the barn.  Beyond and to the right of the van is a stand of remaining native woodland between the two building pads.





In the next picture, we see the dwelling pad from atop the bank on the northeastern corner, looking toward the corner from which the previous pictures were taken -- see the pile of roundwood?  Here one can get a better idea of the size of the dwelling pad. 




Both in the picture above and the one below, we can see that the south portion of the dwelling pad is faintly greener.  The greener area will be the garden area, which we planted to clover seed for winter cover.  The clover was just beginning to sprout, and it was rather late in the season to expect it to reach full growth before the cold enforced dormancy. 




In the next photo, I looked up from the dwelling pad to show some of the very tall Douglas Fir trees to the north.  There is a smaller, beautiful Western Red Cedar among the deciduous trees in front of them.





The potted clerodendrom below sits out of harm's way in the pronaeus of the sacred grounds, marked by a couple of old discarded railroad ties.  Hopefully we will find a place for this tree and plant it this coming year. 




A small bright green frog was hanging out on Galadriel's grave.  In ancient Europe, frogs were seen as symbols of the fetus, and were symbols of one of the many life-giving aspects of the Goddess.




My view from the sacred grounds is much changed now from what it had been in the early parts of the grading process:




At the northwest of the dwelling pad, the driveway continues on past a copse of woodland toward the building pad for the barn/shop (see below).  We also stacked logs of roundwood there, but they are unsealed, and so will likely be used for firewood, or other purposes requiring less structural strength.  Off to the right of the driveway is a large pile of excellent topsoil, covered in plastic sheeting to keep it from washing away in the rains.





The huge old Maple tree (below) is one that made its considerable Presence known when we first came to see this land.  It seems a very important spirit here at Haven, and I'm very glad that it was spared when the grading was done and driveway built. 




The photo below shows the building pad as seen from the driveway entrance:




Crossing the building pad, I climbed the bank and snapped a shot of the view from above the far southwest corner. From here one can see the markers for a future 30'x40' structure...




...and beyond it, the tall trees north of the graded areas...




...and the alder grove between the two building pads:





Finally we made our way to the end of the driveway at the far northwest corner of the barn building pad, and looked back toward the dwelling pad:




Earlier in the season, before the leaves started to turn color, we celebrated the (near-)completion of the grading with some of the people who had helped us with the clearing, here in the barn/shop pad:




It is a good place.




Haven's foundation is laid well, and beautifully.  Now we turn to building!

Apologies...

Yes, the grading and driveway are done and have passed final inspection.  And I now have pictures to share.  And yes, that post is very, very overdue. 

We have moved to a place much closer to Haven, and far less expensive.  It has been crucial to get out from under the rent and utilities payments at Stepping Stone, and we are very grateful to be able to do that.  Further, Lee has far better access to his shop stuff now, which makes him a happier man.  Heat is a woodstove, and the sound of rain on the metal roof is nice.  And it reminds me to go out and check to see how much water has collected in the canopy above the rabbits, and to dump it out so the canopy won't collapse. 

But the cell reception and internet reception here is too poor to allow me confidence that I'll be able to upload the pictures of the final driveway and grading site today.  Tomorrow I'll be elsewhere, and there the reception may be sufficiently good to post the long-delayed pictures. 

Gotta' feed the fire and check the bunnies...

Five... er, make that six incisions

I had intended to finish posting about the grading and new driveway at Haven before now, but it will happen soon. 

Maybe not today -- I'm pretty groggy.  I had surgery last Friday --  a hiatal hernia repair and some other miscellaneous poking around in my gut.  No big bad ugly diagnoses or anything dire, but it still hurts like hell. 

The surgeon gave me five incisions, none more than about two inches long -- this time the procedure was successfully performed using a laprascope.

When you think about it, doesn't it just seem odd that we let physicians poison us, stab us and then take our money? 

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  And they do give you good drugs afterwards, for the pain.
 
I must not have had enough of such action, given what happened on Sunday.  It's not a good idea for a cut-up, sore, groggy Aries on oxycodone to handle knives.  Lee took me to the Emergency room on Sunday after I tried to slice up an apple for juicing.  The slice in my thumb took four stitches to close, and an exceptional amount of bandaging. 

Well, I'll heal.

And Lee and I are both very glad that I've emerged from this surgery without any more serious complications -- my last two surgeries, one in 2002 and another in 2006, were both followed by very serious complications.  I'm not a good surgical risk, but we are hoping that the surgery I just had will change that for the better. 

For now though, I need to rest and recuperate, which can be a difficult thing for an impatient Aries to do when there are so many important, time-urgent matters to attend to, even if I am sore, tired, and groggy. 

'Nuff for now!  The sun's out -- time for a short walk.

The Grading of Haven, Part 1: Destruction

The Pre-grading Site Meeting (a bureaucratic and expensive county requirement that cost us more engineering fees)  took place on August 8th. I brought fresh home-brewed coffee.  I should have brought cookies.  But we got it done. 

The mobilization of the big machines to the job site began on the 16th of August, and the actual work began the next day, with removing stumps and taking down the large trees in the area to be graded.  The first thing I saw when I arrived that day was a tangle of felled trees laying across the future driveway.  At the top of the hill ahead, a bulldozer labored mightily to remove the huge stump of the tree that Shannon had dubbed the Cathedral Tree -- a large and beautiful Big Leaf Maple that was unfortunately simply in the wrong place and so could not stay.  The trunk that remained rose to long jagged shards several feet above the roots -- the Cathedral Tree had shattered when it was taken down.  The roots spread in a huge circle that seemed bigger in diameter than the bulldozer.   As I watched, the heavily rooted stump was removed from the earth and transported down the hill toward us, to the place off the driveway where the stumps and such would be piled.  It left a large hole.

When the crew came to meet us, Glad went to greet them, and they seemed instantly charmed.  But they also saw the huge tumor on her leg. When I started to explain, I learned that they had heard she had bone cancer and would be buried at Haven soon -- I had told Matt and he had let them know.  They were very kind, and also sad. 

Those first few days of grading were the last days of Galadriel's life, and I brought her with me to Haven daily.  I needed to be there, at Matt's advice, to see and have input into what was done, answer any questions, and to select out some pieces of felled trees to seal for future use. Galadriel and I spent most of our time in the sacred burial grounds, where we had laid a bed for her and set up a table and chairs for us. 


There I worked on custom pieces of jewelry, and watched the grading.  Here is a pciture of my view, showing the rough trail we have made from the area being graded to the table and chairs:

This was an exciting time with regard to the daily visible changes I saw at Haven, but also a very difficult time for Lee and I.  I called a vet on the 18th, and made an appointment for Galadriel's good death at Haven on the 20th, that Saturday.  So taking photos of the grading was far from my mind, and now I regret that. 

This was the most chaotic, messy part of the job -- destruction in the service of creation -- as trees were felled and stumps pulled from the earth and hauled to the pile. The back hoe would dig in, grasp the stump, pull it up, shake it and drop it to get most of the dirt off, and load it unto a tracked hauler til the hauler was piled with stumps and roots and felled branches to take away and dump in our woods. 

The scent of the newly opened, rich moist earth was wonderful, so heady one could almost taste it. It was intoxicating.  I would open my mouth and breathe in deeply, savoring it.

There were several very large, tall trees, alder, big leaf maple, fir, willow, etc., along the south side of the dwelling pad, providing shade from the sun -- too much shade, for we needed the sun for the garden.  So, though it was hard for me to do, I asked the crew to take them all down.  It was the right decision, but the contrast was stark.  Some stumps remain on a knoll overlooking the dwelling pad, and we are thinking of putting a statue of Pan on the largest, tallest one, while saving the others for seating. 

Soon the expanse of stump stubble that we and our friends had created had all been pulled, and the large trees felled, processed and stacked. 

They began removing the topsoil, setting it aside -- and there was a humungous amount of it!  I gathered some gnarly wavy roots for future craft projects, and sealed a large chunk of the Cathedral Tree's main trunk, for Shannon to carve as she had requested.  The road was gradually roughed in.

Every day, the crew would make sure I could drive onto the site and park somewhere that they were not working, so Galadriel would not have to walk the hill up to the site.  They assured me they wouldn't be there on Saturday.   I thought Randy might tear up as he petted Galadriel, and told her she was a good dog. 

That Saturday was very hot, and Haven in the grading area already looked very different.  There was virtually no shade in the future dwelling pad area, and the ground was rough and getting dusty. 




So where we were under the trees with Galadriel -- Lee and I and Scott and Shannon, and eventually the vet -- was significantly cooler.  Galadriel ran there when we arrived, and had a good last day there.  Lee, Scott and Shannon fed her treats as I finished stitching her shroud, and we talked about the grading, Haven, and her. Tears ran, as well as sweat, when she was finally gone and we buried her, singing her to her next place.  

The fine whiskey Shannon brought for her wake served not only to celebrate her life and provide something like solace in our grief, but also to bless the land of Haven, that was undergoing such changes.



I highly recommend Pihl Excavating for any grading work or road-building needs in our region -- they are very good, very skilled, very professional, and sensitive to the needs of the customer and of the patch of earth they are working on.  Matt, the owner, has called himself a "reformed logger", and I notice he is inclined to save trees where possible, and carefully separate topsoil and subsoil, conserving the former and using only the later for the needed structural base for roads, buildings, etc.  I am impressed at the extra care he takes to preserve and protect the hives of honey bees that they encounter on jobs, despite the fact that the honey bees will often respond defensively to the vibrations and disruptions of the big earth moving machinery near their hive.  His company is much in demand by vineyards, for the quality of the work performed, and the care taken to properly re-distribute precious topsoil. 

He and every Pihl employee I have met are not only very good at what they do, but also very, very good people.  

That matters a great deal, especially when one is asking excavators to clear and carve the earth of a sacred site such as Haven.  We were asking them to do significant destruction in the service of creation, and to build the very earthen foundation of the Haven-that-we-will-build within the Haven-that-is.  That is a work of great spiritual as well as physical import, and as a priestess of the Divine, I do not delegate such powerful acts to just anyone.  As strange as it may seem, these people, operating their huge backhoes and bulldozers and compacters, had the sensitivity and eye of artists in their dealing with the land, and its owner.  I am very grateful, for I was a novice in the situation.  I'm also grateful that they were patient when I was naive or simply didn't know something.  Pihl's was not the lowest bid for our job, but I am very glad I chose them.


The Clearing of the Grading areas...

It is about time I posted a few pictures of our recent work at Haven!  First, clearing the land to be graded...

Our efforts to clear the graded areas had begun over a year ago, working on reducing underbrush.  But actual felling of trees and serious clearing began this past spring, after the meeting at Haven where Matt Pihl helped us to set aside places to pile felled trees, brush, etc.  As noted in a previous post, Scott and Shannon were eager to help (and so work out some frustrations and stress) and loaned their chainsaws to the task.  Scott and Lee did the chainsaw duty back then.  Lee, strained beyond enduring by the long wait, went straight to work on the Barn area where his tools will live, so that is where the clearing began.  Beware eager men bearing chainsaws! 



I'm not sure, but I think the person dwarfed behind the tangle of jack-strawed tree trunks and limbs is Scott. ...or maybe it's Lee.  Yeah, I think it is Lee...  Anyway, this pile of felled trees is in the area where the barn building pad will be.

Learning to clear land efficiently involves a learning curve.  It took a few iterations to realize that one can fell a helluva lot of trees fast, but clearing the resulting tangle can be much more difficult than felling one at a time, limbing, processing and stacking it, and then moving on to the next. 

Some of those piles of jack-strawed trees were there for weeks, it seemed.  The work was heavy, and there always seemed to be more trees.  I'd been told to leave about a foot of the stump above ground, for the excavators to pull, and gradually the areas of stump stubble grew.  Lee and I became worried about the time the clearing would take, and when we ran into unexpected loan difficulties, and thought we couldn't do the grading until we had money in hand, we became discouraged.  More than discouraged...

But then suddenly the grading was not only a go, but we hafta do it quick, before the ground is too hard!!!  Clearing work had to get into high gear, but we knew we couldn't do it with just the four of us (Scott and Shannon and Lee and I), so we called for help.  Bless Scott and Shannon and our other friends!  They came, and they busted ass.

The first to come was Bo, with his BIG chainsaw, on a Saturday after he and Lee had just put in some overtime together.  Here's some of his handiwork:



That was a three-trunked monster that was bigger than we were going to attempt to take out ourselves, and it fell toward the railroad tracks behind the smaller trees and brush in the background.  Fortunately, it did not fall ON the tracks!   This shows the southwest corner of what will become the dwelling pad. 

Bo did a huge amount of good and much-needed work clearing, for which we are very grateful.  He left with a pick-up load of firewood, which was a mere pittance of the amount of felled wood available.

For about two weeks, we settled into a near-daily routine of heavy labor clearing Haven.  We would bring Galadriel with us, despite her rapidly growing cancer and the work involved keeping her away from chainsaws and falling trees, for we knew she loved Haven, and needed to be with us.  Her days were growing short as the cancer grew, and that emotional pain weighed heavily on Lee and I. 

More friends came and helped: Kristin and her daughter Kat, Julie and Nevada, Ron, Liss and Alex, Isidora, Christian and Alice and their two small children David and Abigail, and of course Kelly and his axe.  Unfortunately, I was too busy directing our friends (cum work crews), tending Glad, taking machete and chainsaw to trees, and applying sealer to cut wood to take pictures, so I have no images of the many folks besides Scott and Shannon who helped.  Nor, alas!  do I have any shots of some of the exceptional moments, like when Scott felled a tree precisely onto my chair in our picnic area (managing to miss the bottle of mead, thank goodness!)  Or when Christian dragged a large log that we hadn't attempted for days, for surely it would require four strong men!  He dragged it alone, with only his small son David "helping" by sitting on the other end!  When Lee and Scott heard that, they resolved never to piss off Christian! 

Here's one of the stacks of long wood.  The huge log Christian dragged is buried in the middle somewhere.  This stack lies in a low area with a grove of trees that will remain between the dwelling and the barn area.




Below is much of the area of our dwelling pad, a field of stump stubble where trees used to be:




We were tired group of more-hardened-than-we-used-to-be would-be lumberjacks, at the end of yet another day of clearing:




Finally there came the Sunday before the grading was to start, when we declared our efforts "done enough".  A few days into the heavy clearing work, Lee and I had purchased a chainsaw of our own, and by the time we were done, all three chainsaws had to go to the shop. In fact, they quit about three days before the deadline, and the last trees were felled using handsaws -- except for one cherry tree.  Kelly, channeling his inner George Washington, felled it with an axe -- and panted for quite a while afterwards.   I think we all now have a new-found respect for those who cleared land for their homes using only hand tools. 

We were now ready to turn Haven over to the BIG machines -- and take a rest.

Galadriel is dead.

She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma -- bone cancer -- on June 3rd, the day after she first started limping.  After our bad experience with Laird, we chose not to amputate her affected leg, but rather to manage her pain medically for as long as that reasonably worked.  Her tumor grew to be huge, but she enjoyed her life and had no bad days, although we knew at the end that she soon would.  So, with the assistance of a kind vet who agreed to come to our land, we eased her passage, and buried her in hand-stitched red shroud I'd made for her.

She lies beneath a huge rough stone of rose quartz, in a beautiful wooded corner of the sacred burial grounds at Haven, not far from where we will build our home.  I'm sitting in Galadriel's Glade right now, watching the big machines grade and compact the soil of the building pad for our dwelling. 

But for the noise of the machines, this would be a very peaceful spot.  But I know she wouldn't mind the noise, for I brought her here almost every day for the past few weeks, and the sights and sounds of the grading did not bother her.  She was at Haven, which she loves, and with me, and so quite content. 

She was always eager and happy to be here, and ran to this spot on her last day in her body, despite the terrible weight, deformity, and pain of her cancer.  We had promised her long ago that the day would come when she would not need to leave Haven.  We kept our promise, and now she runs free, as joyous after leaving her body as she ever had been in her life. 

Our Glad Girl!