Sunday, June 3, 2012

Relentless Green

I drop from my perch later than usual due to late night social activities and I find only a few of the earliest risers.  I fumble myself into organization for a morning stroll.  I decide to follow the creek up into the hills just to see how the restoration is melding with summer growth.  New vegetation is taking over the bare gravel bars of winter.   Perhaps the roots will keep the ground from shifting so much next winter.

I find one of the forest woman off to my right.  Understated, she stands somewhat hidden by boulders that have come to rest on her upstream side. The boulders are decked in moss.  Ferns and salmon berries grow from between the boulders.  A 50 or 60 year old cedar, just a toddler of a tree, grows from her top, the roots wrapped in a tight embrace.  In higher water she might be an island, but she is not alone.  (Only later when I look at my photos do I recognize this one as the same stump that has been the header for this blog.)

I don't go far before I spot a majestic on the hillside.

She stands there, eighteen or twenty feet high with her crumbling red sister above her.  The majestic grows two cedars, 15 inches and 2 feet in diameter from her top.  I'm no longer interested in following the creek but instead turn to cross the hillside to see what stands behind this tallest one.

I find wet and brush, a swamp on a 20 degree slope.  But, coming out of that tangle I find a major game trail and follow that until it until it fades away into a new tangle.  I cross two small streams that I did not know about.  I find familiar ground at the grave of Vitus Bering.  It has been awhile since I felt that I explored something.  I find myself thinking about it.  I find myself in tears as I walk back.

"A" and I put a deck on one of the double log bridges.  One more sometimes slippery as heck bridge to go.

It was kind of nice to stand comfortably in the middle of the bridge and look around.

June 2 - Work

Light comes to the tree house before 6.  I leave my perch and head to the kitchen to brew coffee.  Others have arrived although they came late last night after I was asleep.  Sharing the farm always requires an attitude adjustment on my part.  Most of the time I am here alone.  I've also noticed that I stay in a camping mode that comes to me through many years of climbing, backpacking and wandering - it is sparse.  Most of the others will be here in a "cabining" mode.  They nest, they spend time cooking great meals (which I do enjoy for sure), they just take care of business.  For me, time spent not wandering is time lost.  "Burning daylight" - I probably would've made a good cowboy.  I itch to move.

Red breasted sap sucker

This morning I am rewarded.  I find a tiny egg, alabaster white with a few brown speckles.  I place it in my compass case for safe keeping.  As I walk up river three female common mergansers take flight from the branches of an alder tree.  I had no idea that mergansers would perch in trees (they probably only do this at night).  I find the slough knee deep so I turn back not needing to start the day any wetter than necessary.  Two of the mergansers are back in the same tree when I return.

My friends are up and moving when I get to the kitchen.  One crew takes over the kitchen.  They will make the meals for everyone.  Smoke Farm is always a feeder and a good one at that.  K is cooking pork bellies for tacos.  Most of us then drop down to the barn.  It is in need of cleaning and organizing.  A few others pull blackberries farther off.  By lunch the barn looks good.  A dumpster has been filled with metal recycling.  After a great lunch people split up into groups.  Some attack the overgrown garden which seems to be retreating to a state more wild than the forest.  I lead a team up to the north fields to open up a half mile of trail, because I'm supposed to know where the trail is/was.  The five of us swing machetes for the distance.  We break on the upper beach and then head back the same way.  This is when I see how good my team was...the trail is wide and clear, blackberries, tall grass and thistles sliced away.  You could follow it in the dark.  We return for dinner and find the garden looking as if it was in a nursery.  This is how Smoke Farm survives, by the enormous heart of those that keep returning.

June 1 - Escape

A work party starts tomorrow at the farm, but I needed to escape from my recent routine of sorting, packing, sorting and fixing as we prepare to sell our house and move a couple thousand miles.

I don't know that escaping to a place is any better than escaping from a place.  For my time here at Smoke Farm, the farm has never been a place to escape to.  Rather, it has always been a place to explore.  I come here to find something new, I keep coming because I keep finding new things, sometimes about the land, often about myself.  As long as that happens in any facet of my life, I find purpose and satisfaction.

The potters are here today preparing to fire their wood burning kiln.  It will run for 50 hours, tended constantly by a few of them.  They will sleep in shifts.

 I set my tent up at the top of the tree house.  It always seemed like a good spot to spend the night, 30 feet or so up among the trees.  I would sleep in the open, but the clouds and unusual high humidity signal rain.

With my tent up, I change into the worn wool trousers that work so well when walking in the wet grass.  They dry fairly fast and they also are thick enough to fend off most thorns.  I head out to my installation to continue tying little white rocks to long strings.  My supply of cobbles is safely hidden beneath the high water of the Stillaguamish, so I can walk up river when I am done with my supply of little white rocks.