152: More snow and ice!

A plastic drum and a saw made for a pretty good watering trough!
Swinging in the snow
Coldholler Log Cabin in 16" of snow
Coldholler Goat Cabin - a mighty wind tore the roof off last week, the same wind that splintered three wooden adirondack chairs!
Hot chocolate out of 30-y-o Sierra Club Cups is very good in the snow.

151: Snow and ice in Coldholler

half mile of ice, 25% grade

FREEZING COLD Holler - it is zero degrees

Bubbles of ice, moving beneath the hard surface

New solar fence charger

Trout, not getting fed

Witnessed a coolest, prettiest thing ever this evening, but no pictures, so I'm compelled to use words.  There's a thin veneer of thickening ice on the trout pond. By Sunday morning, it'll be three inches thick.  But today, after a cold night in the teens and then a 45 degree afternoon, it was paper thin. I tossed a quart of food across the top, and the rainbows hit it.  The big 16+" trout would crash through, gulping food and opening basketball-sized holes through which their large bodies and residual food would fall. Below, the 115 smaller, foot-long fish would circle and nab sinking pellets or more cautiously hit the broken surface.  The ice created a sort of dark glass window through which the fish were clearly pictured, surreal, elegant, cold and distant from my own comfort zone, dancing beneath the surface made transparent by the absence of wind-driven or splashy ripple and usual reflection.

Ice on the cabin

150: Biking with boys

I took Angus to a parking lot on campus last week, a big, empty one with lots of space and a track-like oval.  This week, I took Abel to an actual track, the "Mellowdrome" in Asheville, where ten years ago I was heavily into racing.

Here are some pictures...

ANGUS, crossing our imaginary finish line. He and I held a "training camp" in the HHS auxiliary parking lot while Abel was in Art Camp. He learned how to pedal uphill in fast little circles instead of crushing up and down on the pedals inefficiently, he learned how to coast downhill with his feet off of the pedals, he learned to start on his own facing uphill, and he learned that pain is weakness, leaving the body. We even sang songs about conquering the headwind, climbing the hill, and coasting:

Took Abel to the Mellowdrome, where he rode 15 miles! He learned to look over his shoulder before moving up or down track, and how to hold a pretty straight, predictable line. Kept him just to the right of the stayer's line, and about 6 or 7 times I'd drop into the sprinter's lane to get in fast laps (43 seconds wasn't too fast, but I was in a 66" gear and it was windy, so hey) while he held me off. From the finish line around, he'd make it all the way around about 600 meters before I'd catch him, forcing me to do a whole kilo (2 laps) and then some. Not bad for a 9yo kid!

149: Coldholler lumber for Angus's kindergarten project

Today, we used the Coldholler blog for educational purposes -- Angus's class needed a bench of sorts, about a foot high, 6 feet long, and two feet deep, to help smaller kids reach the SmartBoard.

I used wood from our logging operation, big trees grown here.  I preassembled it, making all the cuts and using thick slabs of white pine for the sides and legs and a thinner, pretty length of poplar for the top.  It came together using decking screws, but half of the top was pre-drilled for wooden pegs so that it could be removed to access storage.

The kids helped carry it in from the truck, forming two long lines, one on each side.  I talked about counting 100 rings on several stumps, and told them that means our trees are a century old.  Showed them this post, portraying trees before they were cut, and this one, showing them stacked at the sawmill yard, and this one, showing how they get cut into boards.

Then, we used homemade mallets to pound in the pegs, pre-cut in 2" lengths from a 1/2-inch-diameter dowel.  Each kid got to pound in a peg or apply wood glue.

Local products, learning, and utility.  All-in-all, a good use of trees from Coldholler!

148: New gravel for fresh footing

Hopefully, after the logging slash gets burned, stumps get cut, MTB trails and small pump features appear, meadow grass comes up, blueberry bushes (and at least one apple tree) are planted, and everything springs to life in May, Coldholler will no longer look like a work site or war zone.  It won't look like a manicured subdivision either -- I'm not that meticulous, and we aren't landscaping like that.  The natural forest still dominates everything up here, and the big hardwood trees on the perimeter of the new cleared acre will thrive and spread big canopies.

Still, nature aside, it's nice not to walk in the mud when it rains, and the old road, always sticky but OK with leaf litter and forest duff, got rutted and exposed during logging and its aftermath.  The logger was good enough to scrape it smooth before leaving with the dozer, and I've intentionally not driven up it except when it was frozen solid, and then only in four-wheel-drive.

Monday morning early, our road maintenance guy and Cullowhee Fire Chief, Tim Green, arrived with a small dump truck load of gravel, enough to mitigate the mud and make walking a cleaner endeavor.  It covered the main entrance road, the left turn up toward the mossy plateau and the log cabin, and even the steep climb to the trout ponds, up which I had to use my truck to pull not one but two VW camper vans here for Burning Pig Festival last August.  The three roads create sort of a "Peace Sign" configuration, dividing three main wedges of land -- soon to be a blueberry patch, a small orchard, and a goat pasture.  In the spring, after the fire brigade burns our piles and after the freeze-thaw cycle ends, we'll add another load for good measure.  Here are some pictures...

Down the fence line, Wolf Knob above...
Goat cabin in the distance, and you can make out the lower and higher (bigger) dams that create the two trout ponds
That steep drive in the foreground access a large picnic/camping plateau, the drinking water well, and both ponds.  It's too steep without 4WD, although if that #57 washed rock compacts before a big rain it'll be like concrete.

Blueberries on the right, goats on the left, and apple trees up close.  Meadow grass and wildflowers will be everywhere.

In February, the fire academy will burn those massive piles -- the one on the right is 60'x60' and full of big fuel.

147: water for the goats

Constant fresh water, piped off of the outflow from the two trout ponds. I wouldn't drink it, but the goats aren't likely to be particular...

Other posts about water include this one:


146: Burning the first of the logging slash

Burning is hard work, especially when everything is green, cut only in November.  Saturday, I got up before dawn and ignited the first of the big piles, with the help of a neighbor who worked for years as a logger.  We used kerosene to light a hay bale and his Christmas tree, got a hot spot started, and then I cut and moved green wood into the belly of the beast for 12 hours without a break.  Got it done, but it was brutal labor.  Glad I wore all cotton instead of the usual capilene and synthetics -- one ember landed on my neck, resulting in a small second degree burn and a brief period of shock!

145: discovered the cold in Coldholler!

I tried to explain the name of my home here:  http://coldholler.blogspot.com/2010/05/whats-in-name-that-which-we-call-rose.html

Today, revelation.  I rode my mountain bike up the 25% grade logging road to a spot just on around the ridge from John Dietz Gap, over which my neighbor and I once rode down and into East Fork and around the whole Little Savannah ridgeline back around to 116, up Little Savannah Valley, up higher our houses.  This spot lies vertically down off the top of Wolf Knob, and you can look up and see it from the cabin and the newly cleared land, but not from my house.  Today, it was crystal clear.  I could see the whole cabin sharply through the winter bones, the bare oaks and poplars.  

I could also see where the house sits, although it was invisible to me, tucked into a deep fold and a shadow cast by a small knob between the light beacons of Wolf behind me and Beck directly above the house.  The whole valley and larger cove above was still bathed in afternoon sunlight, weak at a low angle from behind the head wall ridge behind us but still cheery; however, the deep notch where sits my house lay cloaked in a finger of dark, at 2:15 PM in late December lengthening like an early encroachment of nighttime into the day.  Its upper boundary cut across the logged field and spared the cabin and the upper part of the new clearing.  I now know where to put my garden, and I know why we experience such a stark microclimate, with many times more cumulative inches in snow and cool, bug-free evenings in the summer.  The frozen winter ground, unheated by radiant sunlight, the frozen surface of ponds, the Coldholler icebox in the deepest recess of a larger, still-cool north-facing cove, that's where we live.  

Here's a picture taken by an inferior camera, which I'll replace with a better shot soon in a revision of this post...  The cabin was visible to the eye but is lost in blur, but you can see the adjacent new clearing and pasture millimeters above the deep, diagonal shadow that brings us winter during all seasons.  I love it there.

144: Whence the wood went

My friend Pete Bates, a forestry professor at our university, referred me to a logger for the pines, Mr. Cecil Brooks, a soft-spoken family man from the neighboring county, almost old enough to be my father and smaller in stature but spry on his feet and able to get more done in one week with a chainsaw, a knuckle boom logging truck, a bulldozer, an occasional helper, and an extra driver than most of us accomplish with our hands in a whole year.  He was very honest and very conscientious, to a fault, and willing to take on my small job between 1000-acre contracts.  I got paid 1/3 of his take for the poplar, and $10/ton on the pine, most of which is going toward rock for the drives and goat fencing.

Much of the pine, he sold to Ralph Morgan (http://coldholler.blogspot.com/2010/09/cabin-chapter-40-got-wood.html) right down the road.  That's a full-circle kind of occurrence for me - Ralph sold me the planks for my roof rafters and floor on the log cabin.  Now, he'll take trees from my land and sell them to mostly area carpenters as framing material for houses that might shelter some neighbor.  That's "keeping it local" if the term means anything at all!

Here are some of the logs harvested from my land, with Ralph standing there for perspective:

143: Pulling fence!

Today, I started pulling fence between trees and posts, getting about 130 feet in two runs, the first with my truck and the second with a come-along clipped to my hitch.  Bolted two 2x4s together over the end of the fence, like a clamp, and attached to that to pull it tight.  Used locust poles to bolster some posts.  Lots more to everything than that, but here are some pictures of the progress.  

Need to burn some slash that's in the way of the fence line, and I need to figure out whether to use barbed wire or solar electrified wite across the top, and need to rig an apron of wire attached down on the outside to eliminate digging.  

But it's coming along - soon, Coldholler will have a small fenced pasture!

142: Coldholler Trout Pond

Last May, after doubling the acreage of Coldholler by purchasing adjacent property that holds two trout ponds, half an acre of flat camping ground, a 115' deep well with 60-gallons-a-minute yield, and the large area I logged and will graze goats, I decided we needed fish.

Not needing another gear-intensive sport, I followed a tip from a trout-guide friend and investigated Tenkara, a simple method of fly fishing imported to the USA from Japan by an entrepreneur named Daniel Galhardo.  Learn all about it here, but suffice it to know that there's no reel, the telescoping rod is elegant and very long yet fits in my Camelbak for MTB trips into Panthertown or any kind of hike, and uses simple technique to great, fun-filled advantage.  I got a Sato rod that stops at 3 lengths and promptly caught a small brook trout at the creek that flows through my campus where I work, on the second cast.

I built a dock, stocked the pond, and fun commenced.  Stocked it with about 25 rainbow trout in June, and then had a friend of mine who is a professor of aquatic/stream ecology in our biology department come up in July.  We paddled around, and he took oxygen and temperature readings at different depths.  It stays cold enough down below, but the O2 isn’t high there.  He pointed out a healthy bluegill population that needs thinning, and bass would do that.

I rigged a gutter pipe to bring the inflow across beneath a tripod and drop several feet onto the surface, which helps.  Surprisingly, all 25 big trout made it through August and September, and as soon as the water temp dropped to 60 I stocked it with lots of smaller (10-12”) rainbow, but there’s no way that I’d risk letting that many go through the summer.  On warmer days, they eat a good bit right now (it’s 3 degrees today so it’ll be next week before the ice melts and I can feed them again).  In April, I’m going to start actively harvesting them, letting my small boys catch them on willowy Tenkara rods.  When they’re thinned down this summer, we’ll see if the remnant makes it again and I’m going to introduce a few bass to grow into game fish and thin the bluegill (although I’m concerned about what they’ll do to the stupendous frog population).  For fun, if this works out, we’ll over-winter with some trout againHere are some pictures:

Adding 150 more 10-12" rainbow in October

Most of our trout are about this size, some smaller, some larger...

The Sato bends in half but doesn't break!  It's 13' long!

Another catch for dinner...

Tons of small bluegill too -- will need to thin them to achieve better growth.

Nice little Bluegill!


Should we smoke it?

See the fish -- no reel means careful fishing -- have to tire it and then net it.

Fish on the line!

Boys, trying out the Sato (Thanks TenkaraUSA!) - it's kid-friendly, too!

Used my Eagle Scout craftiness to lash a tripod to elevate the inflow and aerate water in the pond for the fish.

Ponds aren't just for fishing!

Other view...

Line holders for Tenkara.

Sometimes, a line and a pole just aren't enough.  Here we're after a 30-pound catfish that has worn out its welcome. 

Threw that in cast iron on hot coals less than 5 minutes after hooking it!

Getting some lunkers at the hatchery in my truck -- it was a nailbiter but we made it work.

Kicking off my fishing phase, here's the Sato, scoped down...

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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.