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...

141: The beginning of a goat cabin!

Coldholler is sunnier now, after all the logging in its very center.  For those concerned, it's a bit less deep and green because the trees I took out were huge white pines, over 100 years old and very tall and grand, but they grew in the center acre, the one that "joins" all other 9, and now that they are gone you can stand up at the trout ponds and gaze down, across the treehouse clearing, and down the ridge to the Coldholler log cabin and beyond to the blue ridges of the Plott Balsams and over to Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  That which was thick pine and underbrush will now be high-bush blueberry, an orchard, and goats.  The new clearing is bordered by mixed hardwoods, oaks, beeches, and birches that will thrive in the sunshine and spread great canopies.

Last weekend, I spent a few hours with a single big poplar tree and a sharp chainsaw to create the first story of a second log cabin -- this one even more rustic and intended to shelter the goats that we'll get in the spring.  Each goat requires about 25-square-feet of shelter, so with upstairs under a peaked roof and downstairs beneath the platform floor, it'll provide for up to 4 comfortably.

I ripped the green poplar from end-to-end and fashioned saddle notches to face the smooth side out.  This time of year, I couldn't get the bark off with my spud, but it rests on locust poles (like the cabin) and will stay under cover.  Should last many years.  Later, I'll build some gangplanks from the second story up into the trees, for entertainment (the goats' and ours).

The boys and their friends are here inspecting my work...

The day before...

 And a lonely gate, needing a fence.  First, I'll have to burn the large slash pile on the left, as it's right on the fence line...

140: Gate for a goat fence!

Coldholler needs livestock.  This summer, we added a healthy population of rainbow trout, and next summer we'll get bees, not to mention 150 high-bush blueberry plants, some apple trees, and thornless raspberries.  But as we decide what to do with the steeper 1/3-acre hillside below the trout ponds, now cleared of 100-foot pines, it seems that goats would be a great choice -- fun to watch and excellent to BBQ.  They'll need shelter, so look for a second Coldholler Log Cabin!

So, I built the  gate for my fence since not much else made sense during the last three hours of daylight on a rainy afternoon. The boys helped me get it plumb, level, and square, and learned something I hope, as those things keep the world in alignment. Can't build the fence until I burn the slash, but I'll need a gate with a superstructure to route the hot wires over, to avoid burying them. Soon, after the fence, look for the log cabin and climbing structure. Lucky goats!

Abel, always curious, analytical, and increasingly helpful, even beyond stripping poplar bark, helping with the gate, noticed its lack of wire:

"Uh, Dad -- you know they can step right through this gate, right?

Me: "I figure they'll go around first since there's no fence, so that won't be a problem."

Abel:  "Oh, yeah!"

About Me

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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.