Monday, October 31, 2011

Posts up!

Each day this week has gotten progressively colder than the next, causing me no end of fear that I might not get these posts in the ground for the high tunnel soon enough before the ground froze solid. So on Thursday of last week, Andrew, who came to Homer as a Wwoofer and seems now like he is staying, came up and helped me put the first four cornerposts in the ground. The posts go in only two feet, so we got metal fenceposts that are 8 feet long and drove those into the ground about four or five feet with a post pounder. Then the hightunnel post - a very heavy hollow pipe about 2 inches in diameter, goes next to the fencepost. Those posts are driven into the ground by climbing on a stepladder with a sledgehammer or a maul and whamming them on top while someone below attaches a post leveler (another amazing tool that I am forever in love with) and watches for level in two directions.
The four corner posts went in pretty easily - it took us about an hour. On Saturday, Mike and I were going to set up the whizbang laser level and get the whole thing leveled out, but Mike managed to catapult himself into a trailer hitch, doing some pretty nasty damage to his back, so I spent the day keeping him company and advocating for ice and Advil and watching football (gack.) Sunday, my friend Eric had suggested I hold a bit of a pole-pounding gathering, so I called on my foolhardy friends (Marylou, Eric, Mike, Andrew and myself) and got to pounding. The whole process went fairly well - took about 4 hours, despite a couple stubborn posts, the difficulty of finding something to fit over the posts to protect them from being bashed in (we used a small metal weight with a bolt running through it as well as one of those brackets you put in the top of a concrete piling to catch the beam). It was amazing how unfrozen the ground still was despite appearances. A half-inch of crusty, frozen ground covered soft earth.
But, that's not to say it was easy, by any stretch. I found the whole thing very difficult, actually. There are 17 posts on each side - 34 in total. At one point, my hand locked up and I couldn't unfurl my fingers, which freaked me out, for sure. Andrew and Eric zoomed through those posts at about three for every one that Marylou and I did - sigh. At the end of the day, Mike was inspired to set up the first complete truss, though we did not put it up. One down, 17 to go.
At the end of the day, I went on my deck to take a look at the project. It struck me that this structure is going to dominate my land now. It is so huge, and every phase of this process makes it so much more real.
This morning, I woke to an inch of snow on the ground. Not surprising - it's actually quite late for the first snowfall, but I'm so incredibly glad that this phase of the project is done. It can freeze all it wants to now because the posts are in. I had my doubts this week that it was going to happen, but somehow I just seem to keep staying one step ahead of disaster, with a lot of help. I'm filled with gratitude, once again. Not a bad feeling at all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The more you know...

My once-editor Joel Gay used to constantly remind me of a saying ... you know what you know, and you think you know what you don't know, but you don't know what you don't know. In journalism, we are often leaning on statistics to make sense of the world - and the statistics say that Alaska Natives are by-and-large a disadvantaged group. What I found last weekend when I attended the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference in Anchorage was something entirely different. I found thousands of people who were proud, passionate, and poised - beautiful, well-spoken, insightful and incredibly connected to one-and-other. I have never seen so many people hugging each other. Goodness! I was humbled by it all and inspired, too.
Getting to the conference, however, in my post-Olive reality, was another story. Matt's been out of town visiting family for a couple weeks and I've had the kids, so I had to piece together a hodge-podge of people and events to take care of it all. It almost would have been easier to just take them with me, but I'm glad to have had the chance to experience AFN and take it all in without the distraction of motherhood. Plus, I got to visit with Jerzy and Paula in Anchorage, and that was fantastic.
This week also marked the culmination of a month of triple-dipping on the work front - freelance jobs, topped with the library job, topped with the new gig for the Arctic Sounder - zoiks. But somehow, by leaning on a lot of friends and eating a lot of crappy food, and neglecting my children to some extent, I made it through. It feels a lot lighter now, though it's still a lot, and the library job needs some attention, for sure.
It's also been a busy time in high-tunnel world. The tunnel arrived the same day Olive announced she was leaving so I haven't even blogged about it. 5,000 pounds of steel took less than an hour for six of us to unload, and then we had a lovely dinner and celebrated the victory of getting the structure here all the way from Ohio. Now, of course, there's that small matter of assembly. So I have 120 days to get this thing up in the air so I can get reimbursed.
The first step is to lay the whole thing out. It's pretty important that it go up level to maintain stability, and we spent some time working on that. Then searching for fence posts that we can sink into the ground and lash the posts to - we found some in Soldotna for cheap - yay! Then the matter of setting up batter boards and finding the square commenced. Holy crap. That is not an easy process. Mike and I spent two (cold and rainy) days slogging around the perimeter of the high tunnel pad moving strings and finessing it into square. Making matters worse, it is very, very muddy right now - the kind of mud that sucks your boots off and renders you somewhat unsteady at all times. Not bliss by any stretch. I finally put down boards around the perimeter to make a path. Then we marked off where the posts should go meticulously with a plumb bob and a piece of wire. The next step is to sink everything into the ground. That will be very, very interesting. I'm more than a little intimidated. But for now, time to write a paper. Onward!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adieau Olive

After four months, Wwoofer extraordinaire and a member of our family forever Olive is leaving tomorrow. Liam and I both shed a tear or two tonight (Théa surely would, too, if she understood, as she still asks for Olive's friend Isa.) It's tough because these people become such parts of your lives, and of course you know at some point they have to go on with their lives, but you'd really rather if that happened later not sooner.
I was describing to someone the whole situation with Wwoofers and how wonderful it was the other day, and they said they would feel like they needed to be a hostess. It's funny because I know I used to feel that way but somehow that shifted. Maybe it's because I am so grateful for another adult around to have conversations with and share a cup of tea. Maybe it's because it's so wonderful to watch your kids having great experiences with wonderfully inspiring young people. I don't know, but never in the time Olive has been here has it once felt uncomfortable or an inconvenience to share my home with her. That's pretty amazing. And I am so grateful for all the help she has given me - she has pickled and jammed, weeded and squashed slugs, cooked, cleaned and cared for my children, run to daycare when I suddenly realized I was late picking my child up while on deadline, done grocery runs and made me countless cups of tea. Olive has a huge and generous heart and a strong spirit, and I hope more than anything that she stays in touch and maybe someday comes back.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Liam turns 8

Eight years ago, I was arriving home with my newborn son right about now. Of course, I am incredibly proud of my son, his unique way of moving through the world, his sweet, generous nature, and the way he deeply feels everything from a piece of dramatic classical music to the value of a snuggle. He is an intense human being. I am in awe.
His birthday always makes me a bit reflective. Eight years ago, I had little idea what a journey motherhood would be. I thought it was going to be one way. I was wrong. Being Liam's mother scrambled my entire way of thinking. My very purpose in life shifted dramatically - maybe too dramatically in some regards - to Liam and his needs. At first, they were constant. Now, less so. If left to his own devices, Liam could survive on his own at this point pretty well. But he still crawls into my arms every morning and asks for a morning snuggle. I'm grateful for that. I know at some point here, he is going to grow past those tender moments. But as long as I can, I'm going to keep filling his cup with the very finest brew of love I can conjure up. And I don't regret a single second of the last eight years - they have been the best of my life. Here's to motherhood, and the amazing little infant who took me there eight years ago.

In other news - the great high tunnel adventure is moving along. Jeff Middleton came and flattened my land this week. It's huge. Awesome. As in gape-your-mouth-and-wonder-what-you-are-doing awesome. And almost the same day, Farmtek called and said my tunnel had been shipped. Zoiks. It's on its way, for real. Now I'm finding myself falling asleep with a 69-page book on hightunnel construction on my chest. What have I done.

Jobs are nuts. Life is crazy. Getting crazier all the time. Hanging on by fingertips at times. But hey, it's not boring. That is for sure.