Ira, my 14 year old nephew from Boston, came to visit again this summer. He was a much different kid this year. If you remember, on his last visit he spent a large portion of his time at my secret cabin playing video games on his laptop. This year he came with a digital camera and a genuine interest exploring my property and what was involved in living the “simple life”. He even seemed to enjoy my farm food which was a far cry from the last time when I had to take him to town to get “city boy” food from Harry’s Grocery/Feed and Seed/Hardware Store.
Right away on the ride from the airport he told me he had been reading past posts of my blog and wanted to see places and things I had written about and even asked if we could do some frog hunting down at the river like I used to do with my dad. By the time he got settled in it was almost dark. Dooley and I built one our famous campfires and we all sat around and planned some adventures.
On the first full day, we decided to let Ira pretend to be me and work through the daily chores. We woke him up at 6Am and we did a walk around of the cabin and animal areas. He fed and counted the chickens and collected a few eggs. Then we moved to the goats. Before releasing the goats to graze we had a little milking lesson. We also gave them a mini physical, checking eyelids, gums and hooves. Then we checked pens and the garden fence for any areas that may need repair later in the day. I explained that it was important to anticipate the weather for the day and since we didn’t have a TV weatherman to tell us the forecast we had use clues to gauge it for ourselves. I told him a few things about the height and shape of clouds, the direction of travel across the sky. We took a look at Dooley’s dew collector/calculator (patent pending) and showed him that, based on the temperature and amount of dew collected, we were likely in for a humid day and some fog in the evening hours. I also told him that in the mountains fast moving weather fronts were hard to spot because the hills prevent us from seeing very far down range, but if we pay attention to changes in the winds, bird and insect behavior, and a change in the color of certain tree’s leaves we usually had enough time to prepare the animals and ourselves for dangerous thunderstorms and possible high winds (something we had to deal with frequently this summer). I included a few words about wooly worms and counting cricket chirps just to add a little mountain mystic to the lesson.
Now, it was time for Ira to prepare his own breakfast. I laid out the ingredients for some scratch goat milk pancakes and talked him through the preparation. It was Dooley’s day for bacon so we fried some up on the side in my small iron skillet. Instead of syrup for the pancakes we used my world famous blend of diluted molasses and raw sourwood honey. As an added touch I put out a dab of some of my goat milk butter (that I make without a separator, still don’t have that perfected, sigh). I just called it homemade butter until after breakfast…in fact, I didn’t mention the milk was from the goats and the “syrup” was homemade until Ira cleaned his plate.
After breakfast we went to the garden and talked about the size, layout and the vegetables I had chosen this year and why I chose them. We checked for weeds and pests and we went over what were good bugs and what were my mortal enemies. In a quadrant I hadn’t used, I let him plant a few seeds. He had read about my decoy garden and I showed him how that worked. I mentioned that even though we had just eaten breakfast we should already be thinking ahead to lunch and dinner and perhaps he should choose some vegetables for a lunch salad and a stew for dinner. Planning and preparation is essential when living the simple life.
To round out the morning I showed him all of our time and labor saving inventions like the five way gravity fed irrigation line from the upper spring, our sound activated predator alarm (as described in an earlier post), the rainwater capture equipment and my magic self-replenishing cache of firewood (Firewood Kenny brings me firewood for free in return for me allowing him to cut wood on my property). Ira was very interested to see the ash separator box and was fascinated with how many uses ashes have. The ash box led to a question about trash disposal and I explained the goal was, not to have any trash.
After lunch (Ira made us a brined cucumber, onion, tomato and boiled egg salad) I suggested that since we had to walk down to the river to check the mail we might as well take our fishing gear. With the exception of a few meaty catfish there aren’t many good eating fish in my little river. There are, however lots of small pan fish that are suckers for some bacon on a hook. For a city boy that doesn’t get to fish much it was fun-o-plenty. After fishing he asked if he could spend some time walking in the wood around the cabin and taking some pictures so I released him from further chore duties, reminded him of a few safety rules, set a return time and let him go exploring on his “own”. It is in the nature of boys to want to explore, to go beyond the horizon and test themselves. It is in the nature of uncles to allow boys far more freedom and independence than a parent ever would in this environment. I hope Ira felt like he was on his own but the truth is Dooley and I never let him too far out of sight.
On his return we strolled out to “Cell Phone Point” so he could check in with his mother. Cell Phone Point is the only place nearby (as far as I know) where we can get a signal. Used to be the only way to make a cell call was to hike to the top of “Jeep Slide” hill which would take a good hour and a half up and back. AT&T put in a new tower near town a couple of years ago and now we get a weak signal near the cabin. The catch is, if you hold the phone in your hand it won’t work. You have to tie the phone in a little harness, string it between two trees and use the speakerphone to talk. Ira thought this was hilarious and took a picture.
I really enjoyed listening to him describe his day to his mom. Dooley said I had a silly look on my face. I’m not sure what that could have been….fun, perhaps?
My next post will be about Day 2, a walk up Rock Creek and will include some more of Ira’s pictures. Until then, keep it simple.