Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trying to Beat Winter

In a four-season climate the destructive power of the winter months always nibbles at the edges of your mind when the beautiful fall color decorates the hillsides. Perhaps because Valhalla had not been farmed in decades and maintenance on the house was neglected, the sense of urgency to get key tasks accomplished prior to cold, wet weather setting in seems a bit overwhelming at times.

Art Sasser, heavy equipment sculptor
and pond designer extraordinaire!
(Click on photo to enlarge)
True enough, lots of things are getting done. Art Sasser and his excellent crew have completed our first major pond expansion and improvement project. Art has the well-earned reputation of being a creative sculptor with a bulldozer when it comes to making ponds, and the way this one is laying out it will be a gem. Wet weather in the future means it will likely fill and settle over the winter and be ready for stocking with fish and as a watering hole for the abundant wildlife on the property as well as having a holding tank to water livestock.

Gifts - both monetary and in-kind donations - continue to trickle in. However, before Valhalla can receive the first Soldiers and war zone civilian workers there are two critical tasks that must be carried out for health and safety reasons: guarantee both electricity and physical access to the property at all times.

Our biggest hurdles at the moment are some significant expenses for putting in two large culverts at both a creek that crosses the property's only entrance (during the rainy season that creek will swell and cut off access for days at a time, obviously dangerous and unacceptable) and a second creek crossing that accesses the majority of the property, purchasing a large propane generator that will automatically kick in during the frequent, sometimes extended power outages here, and painting the house exterior - it has not been touched in more than a decade - to protect it from the elements this winter.

Cody brought over his gear and pressure-washed
the house to remove layers of mold and old paint.
When the water poured in through the closed
windows and sliding glass doors as he worked
we realized that all the sealant had worn away -
sealing and weather-stripping is now high on
the Valhalla needs-list alongside a new paint job!
Nevertheless, it is a sour gift indeed to look on all this and see what still lacks doing. The sad exterior of the house is screaming for paint before yet another winter slams in, adding to the spots that are beginning to rot and flake. The broad, empty yard in front of the house just lacks a few rough-cut lumber pieces before we can begin to create the raised beds that will produce much of next year's food supply. Our garlic is already on hand and we expect the asparagus roots any day now.

A regional Arkansas nursery has some thornless blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry plants ready to ship and Karla at the Crooked Creek Conservation office said she is ordering some fruit trees that ought to do well in this growing zone. Apples, pears, plums, peaches - we're eager to go but need some small equipment and eager hands to get the job done.

Valhalla civilian volunteer and Viet Nam veteran
Keith Hurst came by with a deer feeder and
helped to set it up. When the acorns run out the
deer will have plenty of corn to eat this winter.
While the list of preparatory tasks can seem daunting at times, it is impossible not to enjoy the sheer wonder of the Valhalla property every day. As we drove up the driveway two days ago a total of 17 turkeys shot out of the woods one by one right in front of the car, flying over the planned garden area and into the forest on the other side.

And the deer are already feeling frisky and we have a young buck - looks like a forkhorn or six-pointer who keeps roaming around the yard snorting and acting like the boss. We have a feeling there are probably more than a few older, more cautions senior bucks around who will teach him some manners before too long, but for now he's feeling the cooler weather and acting like the boss!

Smile! You're on Candid Camera!
This red tail hawk lives down by the
creek at the bottom of Valhalla's
lower pasture. We see him all the time, and he was clearly embarrassed when he accidently dropped his lunch (a freshly killed squirrel) on the driveway the other day. While he's very camera shy, it was only a matter of time before we captured at least a blurry photo of him glaring
down at us. What a grump!



Our IRS application for nonprofit status is being processed, 
yet you can still donate to help Valhalla today!



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