We just returned from another trip to Red Gate Farm.   This year, we got to attend S’s Thanksgiving family events–a big deal in that area, and his chance to see many relatives.

This trip, we had one week, and, as usual, lots to do.  S decided to start with a toilet that needed repairing, followed by a tree that he has been wanting to take down.

Now, we love trees, and the forested land surrounding our home was a primary reason we bought it years ago.  However, when we bought it, we discovered several things.  S has an uncle who is an arborist and a brother who works in forest conservation.  With their help, we were able to develop a management program of sorts.  First, we pinpointed some trees that were directly threatening the house during the annual ice and wind storms.  Due to their close proximity to the house, we hired a professional to remove them.  Then, we had a couple trees still near the house that died for different reasons, and we removed those.  Finally, we had to start selecting a few trees to remove simply to improve the health of others as part of good management.  In this case, a large, older elm was growing next to a much younger and prettier oak.  One had to go in order for the other to survive long term.  So, S decided to remove the older elm since its years were numbered anyway.  There were actually several nearby trees that would benefit from its removal as well.  So, down it came, leaving only a tall stump we can remove later to mill for lumber, and a mess of branches and logs around the front yard.

Everyone got to pitch in and clean up the mess.  JR and I helped S and his brother, Uncle M, haul the branches down into the woods and into burn piles.  Then S and M chainsawed the decent sized logs into logs for firewood, which the kids and I helped remove and stack.

This kind of manual labor is great for kids–and parents wanting a quiet evening.  One evening, after the 3 little ones went to bed, JR and M wanted to play a while longer, so we told them to play in our bedroom to prevent too much noise. Within just a few minutes, I heard no sound whatsoever, and found them like this:

Although I would loved to have let them be, while relishing in their cuteness, that double bed is the biggest in the house.  Our sleeping arrangements are quite creative due to a lack of bedspace, which meant these two got booted back to their assigned “beds” so S and I could have a decent night’s rest.

Naturally, one of my favorite parts of working around the farm is the view:

We spent 2 full days working on the tree mess, taking a break in between, on Sunday, to run errands in town.  Then it was time to work on the main project, more retaining walls.  The biggest part of the project was to build up a sloped area behind the barn, in order to create a parking platform for our future livestock trailer.  First, S had to clear that termendously overgrown area. 

In the above photo, he had already taken one tree down, and had 2 to go, in addition to a mess of briars, vines, and invasive honey suckle brush.  It took almost an entire day by itself, but eventually, he cleared an area about 15 feet long by 14 feet wide.

About that time, the rest of the railroad ties we had ordered from our June batch showed up, so S and Uncle M got to unload.  If you like to see muscles, just watch a couple guys unload these things by hand!

At some point, I managed to get the 3 little ones all down to nap simultaneously, and was able to go out and start digging and leveling the area for the walls.  S did the rest of the digging, and moved every tie into place by hand, occasionally with help from Uncle M or myself.  Soon enough, we had the outline of a retaining wall.

They had to extend the drain tile we had installed in front of the barn this summer, to continue preventing erosion in that area, and S had to dig and cut out several massive roots.  In the photo below, you can see the stump left from one of the trees he cut.  He decided to leave small stumps to add support and reduce pressure on the wall itself.  Of course, the stumps will be covered over later.

I must confess, while S spent almost the entire days working outside, it was a bit chilly for the baby and toddlers to be out long term, so I was truly blessed to be able to just relax inside for a large part of the week, tending the children, sitting by the fire, and reading some books.  It was a much needed vacation for me for once.  I also managed to stand behind my barn and look out into that part of the woods for the first time.  What I saw surprised me:

I know with all the honey suckle and vines, it’s hard to see much.  However, I was able to envision a future play area for the kids here, once it’s cleared.  I saw a little rustic stairway from the drive way in front of the parking area, down the slope and around the retaining wall, ending in a flat spot.  A bench could be attached to the outside base of the retaining wall, providing a shaded sitting area for adults supervising children at play.  That big tree may just be the perfect tree to permanently hang their beloved tire swing from.   The ground beneath it is relatively flat and level (rare in the forest on this property), making it perfect for the Christmas present they will receive this year (sorry, can’t tell you what yet!).  I was and am really excited about this little discovery!

We eventually ran out of time, and had to leave the wall unfinished.  We got a great start on it though, with S able to complete the hardest part of it.  We are hoping it will settle over the next 6-8 months, until our next trip there.  At that point, we plan to join that wall to the much smaller wall that will border the driveway from the parking area all the way to the house.  We will also fill in the parking area with dirt and gravel to make it more level and ready for parking.  Eventually, we will build a roof over the area, but that likely won’t happen for a few years.

Alas, Saturday morning rolled around, and it was time to head back to CO.  It wasn’t as sad as ususal, as we had all our animals and our mini-farm here to look forward to.  We also had a little adventure awaiting us mid-trip.  Look closely:

Did you see it?  Look again. 

Maybe this will help:

Still not sure?  Let’s just say that’s not Will, the dog, over M’s shoulder.

It’s our new, long-awaited, and much anticipated Kinder doe!  I’ll do another post on her later.  She had the whole back end of the van to move around and lay down in (on a tarp and plenty of extra-absorbent pine shavings, of course!), but chose to spend the vast majority of the 7 hour trip home with her head right over M’s shoulder.  She is such a people-loving goat!  She’s a total sweetheart, and proved to be a very good traveler. 

You can imagine we had quite a full van, though.  I meant to get a better photo, but totally forgot.  The van had our luggage in a borrowed car-top carrier, S and I up front, 5 kids in 5 carseats in the back, Will taking every bit of available floor space, and the goat in back! 

Never a dull moment around here, and we arrived safely back in CO to await our next adventure.